Book honors Salt Lake police officer, bloodhound partner
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — In more ways than one, Adam Russ and Michael Serio wouldn't have been at the King's English bookstore Saturday signing copies of Russ' book "Bloodhound in Blue" if not for friendship.
“Bloodhound in Blue: The True Tales of Police Dog JJ and His Two-Legged Partner” was published in July and documents the close friendship and bond between Salt Lake police officer Serio and his dog JJ, who was the first bloodhound to do police work in Utah.
But the longtime friendship between Serio and Russ — who met as children in Germany and later became college roommates — helped bring the book into being.
According to Russ, Serio is so particular about who watches his dogs, that he once flew Russ out from California to watch his current dog, Junior. While here, Russ found news reports and clippings about the work Serio and JJ did together.
"After that visit, I started talking to (Serio) about, 'We should write a book about this. It's a cool story that needs to be told,'" Russ said.
Serio said he bought JJ simply to be a pet, but on visits to the park the bloodhound would track anyone who walked by.
"He would just pick up an odor and just go, and I thought there was something to that," Serio said. "I was starting to see if he could do this without any training, with some training he might be really exceptional."
He started doing some research and training, and eventually JJ joined Serio as his partner on the Salt Lake police force. Before then, only Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds were working for the department, but JJ was able to show the value of having a bloodhound on the force who excelled at tracking.
During his police career, which ended with his death from cancer in 2008, JJ "caught nearly 300 bad guys," Serio said. Now, there are three bloodhounds working for Salt Lake police and as many as 10 are being used around the Salt Lake Valley.
"(JJ) was an outstanding police dog," Serio said. "And it wasn't just the numbers. It was more the way he did it. He was able to track guys that would not normally be caught. He was able to track for long distances and tracks that were older in age and through urban environments."
The bond between the two ran deep and Serio said there is still a shrine to JJ in his home. After JJ died, Serio didn't think he could work with another dog and he went back to patrol duty.
"I eventually started to realize where my heart was," Serio said. "Even though I didn't have JJ with me, JJ taught me to love dogs because of what he did for me and that's when I realized that I needed to be back in dogs."
Not long after, he went to a breeder in Colorado to pick out a bloodhound puppy. The breeders knew about Serio and JJ and they gave him Junior as a gift. Now 5 years old, Junior works alongside Serio and joined him and Russ at the book event Saturday.
The chance to meet Junior prompted Kim Patterson to make the drive to Salt Lake from Ogden with her children. She caught wind of the book signing through the King's English email list. She said she loves the store's author events, and knew this would be one for the whole family.
"My kids love dogs," she said. "We had two German Shepherds we trained for search and rescue and they love true stories."
Brigette Bennett is a fellow Salt Lake police officer who brought her two girls to congratulate Serio on the book and to see Junior. She believes the book has a good message.
"It shows no matter how small or big you are, you can still have a role helping make the police department work and fight crime," she said.
Anne Holman, manager of the King's English, said she was excited to host an event when she heard about the book and said the turnout Saturday was "terrific."
"The thing about this, is this is such a Utah story," she said. "It's really great for us to do something with local people but also when it's a dog and it has this kind of feel and there's kids running all over the patio, that's our favorite thing."
Serio enjoyed telling his and JJ's story to Russ, who was there at Serio's wedding to hear JJ baying while tied to a tree. Russ said his friendship with Serio helped open the doors needed to tell the story. JJ's full name, Jesse Jr., was in honor of Russ' dog, Jesse, whom the pair took care of during their college years.
"(Russ) taught me how to love a dog, basically," Serio said.
And getting to write about his close friend and capture all of the stories about JJ was a highlight for Russ.
"To be able to write his story a little bit and his story with JJ ... it was kind of really cool to put that narrative arc together and really tell what they've accomplished, the really amazing accomplishments they've had and the impact that was still felt today," Russ said.
Serio said it was an honor to see the public response to the book about his beloved dog, friend and partner.
"It's an amazing feeling to think JJ impacted so many people," Serio said. "Just to see the community support is pretty incredible."
Another book signing featuring Serio, Russ and Junior will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Dolly's Bookstore on Main Street in Park City.
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