By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
After seven years of faithfully serving the Centralia Police Department and his handler Officer Ruben Ramirez, K9 Lobo is retiring this month due to an “unforeseen medical condition,” according to the department.
Chief Carl Nielsen said veterinarians aren’t sure yet exactly what ails the dog.
“They’ve narrowed it down to like three things but all three are career-ending,” he said.
The Centralia City Council plans to honor the dog Tuesday at its regular city council meeting and proclaim Sept. 26 as “Police K9 Lobo Appreciation Day.”
At that meeting, the council will declare Lobo surplus property and will later sell him to Ramirez to $1, which is common practice, Nielsen said.
After Sept. 30, Lobo will live a “well-deserved” retirement as an ordinary family dog, he added.
After Lobo’s retirement, Lewis County will be down to one police dog — the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office’s Axel, handled by Deputy Rick VanWyck. The Chehalis Police Department’s dog, Reign, died earlier this year on duty after a still-unexplained medical event.
As they have in the past, the departments plan to purchase two new dogs and train them together, Nielsen and Chehalis Chief Glenn Schaffer told The Chronicle Monday.
“We’re going to keep that consistency and teamwork in play,” Schaffer said.
Nielsen and his wife Jan own a dog training business and plan to travel in two weeks to Europe to visit breeders and check out possible dogs. They will donate their services to Centralia and contract with Chehalis for training.
European-bred German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Dutch shepherds and similar breeds are preferred by police agencies over American-bred versions, Nielsen said.
“Generally it’s because of the health,” he said. “Unfortunately the American-bred shepherds have been bred more for looks than for working so unfortunately there’s a lot of health issues.”
They plan to pick the best two dogs they can get — based on temperament and drive to work rather than color or breed and likely between 10 and 18 months old — who will already have a basic level of law enforcement-geared training.
Nielsen said the two dogs and possibly a third from an agency outside Lewis County will participate in a police K9 “academy” for their police-specific training once they get back to the United States.
Officer Ramirez is one of two applicants for Centralia’s new handler position. Officer Warren Ayers, Reign’s former handler, will again take on the duty for Chehalis.
Lobo joined the department in June 2010 and began his training in September of that year. He was certified a few months later.
Since then, Lobo, a German shepherd, has been deployed 197 times with 84 successful captures of suspects. The deployments included building, evidence and area searches, tracks and apprehensions of suspects. He has also participated in 24 public demonstrations.
In May 2016, Lobo became certified to detect narcotics in May 2016 and has searched eight vehicles since then.
“Lobo’s most notable seizure was 24 pounds of methamphetamine concealed in the gas tank of a vehicle,” according to a news release from the Centralia Police Department. “Lobo has also assisted in the seizure of approximately $100,000 in drug-related cash.”
The Centralia Police Department’s K9 program, apart from the officer’s salary and patrol vehicle, is paid for by donations, including donated food, medical care and the cost of purchase and training of the dog.
The dogs are expected to cost $11,000 each, Nielsen said. Schaffer said training will cost another $5,000. Donations can be made to the Chehalis Police Officers Association and the Centralia Police Officers Association.