BLOOMINGTON — Keej the canine had finished posing for photos Tuesday on the roof of a downtown parking garage when, instead of getting back into his McLean County squad car, he leapt off the five-story building.
“My first thought was, ‘He’s dead.’ I didn’t even have time to say his name. I will never forget him leaping that wall,” said Deputy Jon Albee, who rushed downstairs to find the 4-year-old Belgian Malinois walking into the garage after hitting the roof and windshield of a car.
Tina Braden of Peoria was returning from the adjacent McLean County Law and Justice Center when she saw several officers standing near her Kia Amanti. She feared for the worst when she saw the extensive damage and learned of the dog’s 60-foot fall.
Albee and the dog’s veterinarian say Keej suffered some bruises but no serious injuries. He will be off work for about five days.
“It’s really a miracle that he survived. My car must have been meant to be there for the dog to be safe. This is just a car that can be fixed, but for the dog, this is his life,” Braden said Wednesday.
Sheriff Mike Emery was waiting to present his budget to the McLean County Board’s justice committee around 4 p.m. Tuesday when a deputy interrupted to tell him.
“My first concern was the health of the canine and making sure he was taken to the vet for an examination. When I was first told, my thought was that the next thing I would have to deal with was an authorization to put the dog down. I was very excited to hear that the initial exam was positive and Keej was on his way home with his handler to recuperate,” Emery said Wednesday morning.
The photos were being taken as part of the department’s school program that provides students with a photo of the dog. Albee thinks Keej was unaware that he was on top of a building.
The positive report from Keej’s checkup was good news for the department.
“If this was a test of his endurance or agility, he passed. But I wouldn’t want to see his next test be to see if he can outrun a locomotive,” said the sheriff.
Keej, who was born and raised in Europe, joined the department in 2008. His training cost $15,000.
The county will pay the repair bill for the car, said Emery.