DALEVILLE, Ind. – A police K9 trained in narcotics and tracking is making a tail-wagging name for herself in Hollywood.
Dita, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, plays Cerberus in CBS’ SEAL Team.
“It’s amazing,” said Justin Melnick, her owner and handler.
Melnick, who was a military photographer in real life before he became a police officer, showed up for the pilot with his dog expecting to play a stunt man. He ended up as a regular, playing Brock, a special warfare operator.
“The behind the scenes is incredible. When you sit down in a production meeting and you get to see a preliminary draft of the script, you try to envision how they’re going to build an Afghan village,” he said. “They were so authentic. They did such a great job of creating reality.”
Melnick said the set is special to Dita, too, because she gets to run free with the actors.
“Dita has managed to acquire 350 aunts and uncles. We have one rule, which is when she is in her work vest, please leave her alone,” he laughed. “There are always tennis balls floating around. Everyone says it lowers the stress level because there is always something furry to pet.”
CBS4 got to see two very different sides of Dita. On the show, she is the main actor’s sidekick. The pair clears buildings, searches for victims and the dog sniffs for bombs.
“She’s a special dog,” SEAL Team star David Boreanaz told the network. “I love her to death.”
While on the job, Dita has been skydiving, swimming and rock climbing. Melnick spends every hour of every day with her, keeping her active and well trained. He stressed how important it is to keep the Belgian Malinois breed active.
“As tame and well behaved as she is, if she gets bored, she’ll be destructive,” he explained. “They make great working dogs but horrible pets.”
That’s why at home, Melnick and Dita stay busy. Dita is considered Daleville Police Department’s youth resource officer. She visits several schools a day teaching kids about canine safety.
“We’ll do dog awareness and put on demos for the kids,” he said. “Any public relations capabilities that can put a friendly face on the blue. We need positive encounters with law enforcement.”
Melnick said the only thing Dita loves more than her tennis ball is children. That was evident when we tagged along for a classroom visit at Daleville Elementary. Melnick talked about how to approach a dog, what to do if you find a lost pet and how to properly pet animals. He allowed each and every student to pet and play with Dita. Then, the pair performed.
“What’s five times five?” He’d ask Dita. “Twenty-five? Good girl!”
Melnick entertained second graders, telling them the canine even knew French. He had her shake, fist-bump and jump on desks. The kids laughed and screamed. He then promised they would return at recess so that Dita could play on the playground with everyone.
“Being able to brighten people’s day is one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had,” he said.
Even though Melnick and Dita will return to California this summer to begin recording SEAL Team season 2, the pair can’t wait to return home to central Indiana.
“I’ve seen it all. When I came here nine years ago, I fell in love with it," Melnick said. "There is a sense of honesty and purity out here you don’t get in big cities. No pun intended, it’s a breath of fresh air."