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J.J., whose howl put criminals on notice for nine years, poses with his handler, Salt Lake officer Mike Serio, in 2006. J.J., who was credited with nearly 300 apprehensions, died early Thursday from a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

"J.J." could be heard from blocks away, howling that he was on the trail of a wanted criminal.

It became his trademark, putting a wanted man on notice that the Salt Lake City Police Department's infamous criminal-catching bloodhound was hot on his trail. In his storied nine-year career, J.J. had nearly 300 apprehensions.

Officers are mourning the death of the department's first-ever bloodhound, who died from a rare and aggressive form of cancer that was first diagnosed in late 2006.

"J.J.'s health declined during the past couple of weeks, and his handler recently discovered that his cancer had returned," Salt Lake City Police detective Jeff Bedard said in a statement Friday. "In the early morning hours of Thursday ... J.J. succumbed to his cancer."

J.J. was handled by Salt Lake City Police officer Mike Serio for the past nine years. Serio and J.J. pioneered the use of bloodhounds in urban environments in Utah. Once, J.J. tracked a wanted criminal for close to three miles. He was also used to help find missing children.

J.J.'s success led Salt Lake City police to add two more bloodhounds to their K9 team. Two other Salt Lake-area police departments have also adopted bloodhounds for use in law enforcement.

To save the dog and prolong his career as a police K9, J.J. was sent to New York City to undergo aggressive cancer treatments. Even after being diagnosed with cancer, Salt Lake City police said J.J. apprehended nearly 50 suspects.

Serio did not wish to comment publicly on the death of J.J., police said.

"K9 Officer Mike Serio appreciates the support J.J. has received over the past year from the media and members of the community," Bedard said.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com