By Graham Perednia / firstname.lastname@example.org
Centralia Police Department K9 Lobo received a standing ovation on Tuesday at the city’s regular council meeting.
Lobo’s retirement will be official on Sept. 30 after serving in the department since 2010. Lobo’s career has come to an end due to an unknown medical condition, said Officer Ruben Ramirez, Lobo’s longtime handler. A veterinarian said an issue with his spine was causing him to lose control of his hind legs.
Ramirez and Lobo have been deployed more than 200 times and have captured 84 suspects, Mayor Lee Coumbs said while reading a proclamation to declare Sept. 26 as Lobo Appreciation Day.
One capture near Adna stands out for Ramirez. He and Lobo were the first K9 unit on the scene and made contact with the suspect. Ramirez said he knew the person because he had arrested him before. He warned him not to run or he was going to release Lobo. The suspect ran anyway, so Ramirez released the dog.
When Lobo caught up to the suspect and apprehended him, Ramirez heard the suspect yell “Ramirez, Ramirez, get Lobo off of me.”
“Canine partners are there for you no matter what,” Ramirez said. “You have a real bond.”
Lobo is credited with saving Ramirez’s life in 2014 when a suspect drew a handgun on him in a parking lot along Tower Avenue in Centralia. Lobo rushed out of the car and attacked the suspect, Coumbs said. Ramirez then shot and killed the man, who was carrying a gun.
Ramirez said in addition to saving his life, Lobo has helped saved countless others with the seizure of 25 pounds of methamphetamine.
Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen said he has worked with three K9 units in the county and it has been a pleasure. The Chehalis Police Department and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office have or have had K9 units as well.
“The biggest thing that has impressed me is the work ethic shown by all three of our K9 teams,” Nielsen said. “They literally spend more time with the dog than their families.”
A K9 unit is always on duty, Ramirez said. If the dog is needed for a search and rescue or to track a suspect, they have to respond, no matter the hour.
Ramirez has volunteered to be the handler of the next Centralia police dog, Nielsen said.
It was a difficult decision, Ramirez said, but after talking to a couple different handlers, he decided he would do it. He added that having Lobo around the new dog will help the new dog get excited to go to work and do his job.
After retirement, Lobo will become the Ramirez family dog, Nielsen said. The council declared him surplus on Tuesday and the city sold him for $1 to Ramirez, a common practice for retired police canines, Nielsen added.
The Chronicle reported on Tuesday Centralia and Chehalis will both receive new police dogs, and Nielsen and his wife will train them for service through their dog-training business. The new Centralia dog will be trained at no cost. Nielsen and his wife plan to travel to Europe in two weeks to visit breeders and identify new dogs for service in Lewis County.
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.