Meet Dita, the SEAL Team actress behind Bravo Team’s four-legged soldier Cerberus.
Former police officer Justin Melnick is the real-life owner of Dita. In SEAL Team, he plays Brock Reynolds. And his role was created so he could be on-set with the pooch and serve as her official handler.
During an exclusive interview with Assignment X, Melnick talked about working with the dog, who he credits with getting him into Hollywood. And he explained how the show sets up those gruesome-looking attack scenes.
According to Melnick, Dita always works with a “stunt guy who’s been trained to catch dogs.” That way the staged victims know how to handle themselves. And Dita never acts out of aggression or fear.
“It’s only a game to her,” he shared.
Oddly, the dog-handler never stands in as one of Dita’s targets, despite the fact that he knows how to play the part. During the interview, Melnick shared that he has only filmed as an attack double one time in the show’s history. And when he did, he wasn’t playing a bad guy.
“I put on the bite suit for a montage we were doing during Season 1,” he recalled. “But it was me catching her as playing around on the base, killing time.”
And interestingly, Dita isn’t just an actress. She’s also a retired “single-purpose police dog” and community staple. The Belgian Malinois began her career by sniffing out narcotics. But since she got her job on SEAL Team, she’s been living a more relaxed life.
When Dita isn’t filming CBS’s military drama, she’s hanging out with grade-schoolers.
“Her secondary duty is to do dog awareness for kids, so K through 4, we go into all of our schools, we do dog awareness,” said Melnick. “She goes to recess with the kids, plays with them on the playground. We like to call her the glue of our community, because she really gets out there and brings people in, within our community and our school.”
Dita is ‘SEAL Team’ Star Justin Melnick First Dog
SEAL Team dog handler Justin Melnick never had a dog before taking in Dita. As he explained to Assignment X, an old roommate passed the dog to Melnick. And the former Indiana police officer winged it from there.
“Our narcotics K9 at the time retired because he had been in service for eight or nine years, and we work on a very limited budget in the small town. We have five full-time officers and 24 reserves, part-time officers. So I took Dita and started training her.”
Melnick proved to be a natural with dogs. Because since taking in Dita, she has been a decorated narcotics officer and a Hollywood star.
But Melnick refuses to take credit for Dita’s greatness.
“I wish I could take credit for everything she does,” he continued. “I’ve never had a dog in my life, but I work well with Dita. Dog trainers have this saying that ‘your emotion runs up and down the leash.’ So she can feel what you’re thinking just conducted through the leash. It’s just a bond. I’ve never had anything in my life like it.”