Falk von Asterwerg, a German shepherd beloved and feared as a five-year veteran of the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department, died last week of an apparent heart attack. He was 9.
Officer Joe Hall, 34, who was Falk's handler, said it "is like losing a member of the family, your best friend and your partner all at one time."
Falk took part in 48 arrests during his career as a police dog, superbly handling his first dangerous assignment, which police regard as a make-or-break test for officer-dog teams, according to Hall.
The incident involved a former mental patient who had kidnaped, knifed and sexually molested a 14-year-old boy. The man was speeding in Palos Verdes Estates, with the boy tied up in the rear seat, when his driving drew Hall's attention. The car crashed, and the man emerged and attacked Hall. Falk jumped from the police car to help his handler.
"Between the two of us, we subdued this individual," Hall said. "After that, I was so proud of him, I was just like a new father."
When not working a case, Falk, a favorite with children, was friendly and playful.
The dog was stricken Oct. 7 after a post-bath romp at Hall's home in Palos Verdes Estates. The officer used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on his partner and raced the dog to a veterinarian.
"I was sitting in the front seat, and he just kind of looked up at me as if he wanted to thank me. He knew something was wrong. Then he went out again," Hall said.
Preliminary findings from an autopsy indicated that Falk had suffered a massive heart attack. Falk was buried Oct. 8 near Palos Verdes Estates City Hall.
Hall, who is looking for another dog to work with, said, "We are trying to find a dog with a similar temperament."
The city is accepting tax-deductible contributions to replace Falk, which will cost between $5,000 and $7,000 because a new dog must be trained for two years in Germany. The police department has received about two dozen calls from people wanting to help. Donations may be sent to the Palos Verdes Foundation Canine Replacement Fund, 340 Palos Verdes Drive West, Palos Verdes Estates 90274.
If you're going to give a parade, do it right or not at all.
That is the philosophy of Jim Frlekin, who last week announced that after more than 10 years, there will be no San Pedro Christmas Parade this December. The reasons: Not enough volunteers and some unwilling local Jaycees.
"Everybody wants a parade, but nobody wants to do the work," the 43-year-old owner of Slavko's Harbor Poultry lamented this week.
For the past 10 years, Frlekin served as chairman of the parade. A group of volunteers staged the event, lining up Santa Claus and more than 70 other entries each year for a 15-block march along city streets.
But, alas, the enthusiasm of volunteers has waned over the years, Frlekin said. Last year the Jaycees, with Frlekin, organized the parade, with the understanding that they would take charge of it this year.
However, when it came time for the Jaycees "to take the bull by the horns," they didn't, Frlekin said.
Not so, said Anthony Scognamillo, vice president of the local Jaycees. The 30-member group "never really committed to taking over the parade," he said. Moreover, the group, which has struggled to attract members, simply doesn't have the people to put on the parade. "I would hate for the Jaycees to get labeled that they dropped the ball," Scognamillo said.
San Pedro, however, will not be without a holiday parade. The Harbor Department still plans to stage its annual Christmas Afloat parade Dec. 12. As in past years, boats decked out in bright lights and other yuletide decorations are expected to troll the Main Channel.
Eight months after her first visit to a Hermosa Beach dermatologist, Melissa Sexton is losing the reddish birthmark that has swept across the left side of her face since birth and made her a shy child.
"It's great," said 12-year-old Melissa, who lives with her family in the factory town of Paris, Ill. "I feel happier, I'm better about being with people, and I'm doing better in school."
Dr. Laurence M. David, who used laser surgery to treat Melissa's hemangioma--the medical term for an abnormal enlargement of blood vessels that form a red blotch--said Melissa is healing very well, the blemish is lightening and further surgery is not planned.
"You can see changes in her face already," said Melissa's mother, Katrina Sexton, who said the blemish has cleared at the hairline. "There is still quite a bit of pink in the middle of the face, but it will take up to six months for it all to disappear."
Melissa has been treated through the Hemangioma Foundation of Southern California, which David formed to promote understanding of laser treatment of hemangiomas and to provide help for people who have no way to pay for surgery, which can cost up to $3,000. He said Melissa is one of six children whose father has been laid off from assembly-line work.