Unfortunately, in the midst of changing vehicles and responding to the emergency, Lankow forgot that his partner, 7-year-old Belgian Malinois Jeg, was sitting quietly in the backseat of the first squad car.
With outdoor temperatures of approximately 98 degrees in Tucson, Ariz., on the day of the incident, Lankow’s squad car reached between 100 and 115 degrees, with poor Jeg locked inside the vehicle.
After an hour passed, Lankow realized that he’d forgotten Jeg in the back of the other squad car. In a panic, he raced back to headquarters, where he found Jeg overcome by heatstroke. The Tuscon Fire Department was called to respond, and in the meantime, Lankow tried desperately to cool Jeg down with water and ice.
Jeg was rushed to the Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center for treatment Wednesday afternoon. While his condition initially appeared to improve, by Thursday afternoon, the dog took a turn for the worse.
Veterinarians explained that Jeg had suffered irreparable organ damage due to prolonged exposure to the extreme heat inside the squad car and, despite all efforts, would not recover. Officer Lankow, along with his family and Canine District Commander Captain Jenna Mitchell, stood by Jeg’s side when at 2:35 p.m. July 12, the Belgian Malinois was put to sleep.
The decision to euthanize Jeg was not easy, but it was necessary, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesperson Officer Carrick Cook told KTAR-FM: “[Jeg’s] mental function and body function was declining in a way that there was no way to turn him around and get him back to a healthy condition.”
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Officer Lankow has served as a K-9 officer since 2009 and was Jeg’s handler for nearly three years. Following Jeg’s death, Lankow was put on paid administrative leave while an investigation into the matter is conducted.
Officer Lankow is described as distraught following the death of his partner. Cook explained that during Jeg’s hospital stay, Lankow refused to leave the dog’s side.
“I want to make sure people understand that [Lankow] is emotionally ruined by this event,” Cook told the Arizona Daily Star. “His wife is really hurt by this, his kids are hurt.”
“As an agency, everybody that I’ve talked to who knows is upset and hurt by it,” Cook added in a KTAR-FM interview following Jeg’s passing. “It’s one of our family members.”