K-9 Officer honors Dax Locke

By Marc Strauss

May 11, 2012 Updated May 11, 2012 at 10:20 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- An Illinois State Trooper with ties to St. Jude has honored the memory of Dax Locke in a very special way.

Wes Matarelli is the new District-8 K-9 officer for the Illinois State Police. His partner a dog named Dax.

"When we got the dog we wanted a symbolic name, a strong name that represented courage and strength," explained Matarelli. "Those are the exact traits that Dax Locke had through his battle with cancer."

Matarelli's K-9 partner is a 2 year-old German Shepard who was born in the Netherlands about the same time Dax Locke succumbed to leukemia.

Dax is what the state police refer to as a full service K-9, meaning he's certified to search for narcotics, missing persons and articles to find evidence.

Dax Locke's parents, Austin and Julie, say they're honored the dog was named in memory of their son.

"Its very moving to know that all of the hard work we've done to keep Dax's spirit alive has touched someone to go to the extreme to name a K-9 dog after Dax," said Julie Locke, Dax Locke's mother. "Its very touching."

"Anything that will help people remember Dax and that will help the children of St. Jude that means a lot to us. This goes a long way toward doing that," said Dax Locke's father, Austin Locke.

Trooper Matarelli's ties to St. Jude go beyond his K-9 partner. For years his mother, Linda Feinholz, was in charge of St. Jude's Memphis-to-Peoria run.

And Matarelli has participated in the St. Jude run 6 times himself.

"The run itself is emotional," Matarelli said. "What St. Jude does for the kids is unbelievable. You couldn't ask for a better agency to help fight this."

And Matarelli couldn't ask for a better partner than Dax to fight crime.