Police dog retires from duty

A member of the Marshalltown Police Department who was small in size, but played a big role in keeping the city safe, has retired from active duty.

The K9 Awol has retired early due to a degenerative muscle disease. Awol worked with Sgt. Melinda Ruopp for seven years.

During his career he seized more than $1 million in narcotics and $113,169 in cash seizures.

“Awol has done an exceptional job for the police department and has been a huge asset,” said Mike Tupper, Marshalltown police chief. “It’s just unfortunate the medical problem came up and he’s going to have to retire sooner than we’d like to see him.”

Ruopp says there are a lot of things she misses about having Awol next to her side.

“I will miss the power of the dog,” Ruopp said. “His nose, what he can do for me as a police officer, not only with helping to locate things, but just keeping me safe on the street and the companionship. I’m going to miss having him in my car. I do miss it a lot. It’s really hard.”

Awol and Ruopp placed fourth place overall at the National Detector Trials in Colorado Springs in 2009, one of Ruopp’s favorite memories with her dog.

“I think probably with him placing fourth overall, that’s probably one highlight of many,” Ruopp said.

Ruopp will continue her duties as National Secretary of the United States Police Canine Association and the police department’s K9 supervisor. Ruopp has been a K9 handler for 15 years.

“We would not be where we are at today if it weren’t for Sgt. Ruopp and her dedicated service to this community and her devotion to the community for so many years,” Tupper said. “She has quite simply been a superstar and she has been the driving force for this program for over 15 years now. I owe her a deep gratitude because this program has been so successful and large part because of her services.”

Sgt. Tom Watson, of the Marshalltown Police Department, went to St. Paul Thursday, to pick up Jordy, a 10-month-old, Belgian Malinois German Shepherd mix, who will be Awol’s replacement. Watson will begin duties as his K9 handler in March when they start training.

“I am extremely excited,” Watson said. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been an officer for about 14 years and from day one that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Excited is an understatement.”

Watson says he looks forward to learning from Ruopp who will help train Jordy.

“Mel was an outstanding handler,” Watson said. “To be a fraction of what she was, you’d be a good handler. We are very fortunate to have Mel.”

The community has been greatly supportive to the K9 unit. During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, $62,794.09 was raised through an ongoing fundraiser. During the 2013-2014 fiscal year an additional $4,318 was raised by donations from the community.

Through those funds, last July, officer Eric Siemens became the K9 handler to Raji.

“I always want to acknowledge the citizens in this community,” Ruopp said. “Without their support I wouldn’t have gotten my first dog and certainly wouldn’t have gotten my second dog and the citizens have continued to support our K9 unit and I can’t thank people enough for that. It’s amazing what this community will do when you need it.”

At 5:30 p.m. at the city council meeting Monday, Ruopp and Awol will be honored for their services.