If it’s a dog’s life for veteran North Olmsted Police dog Rico, then he’s off to a pretty good start as he heads into retirement.
Rico, 11, a Belgian Malinois, was honored with a retirement party at the North Olmsted Senior Center after serving the city of North Olmsted since 2002. He was rewarded with a bag of dog goodies from Petsmart, as well as lots of good wishes from city officials and residents attending the get-together. Other people brought donations for the North Olmsted Animal Shelter to honor Rico and his service.
Rico drew praise from party attendees.
Rico did exceptional work for the department and other area agencies, North Olmsted Police Chief Wayne Wozniak said. “He’s apparently the oldest serving police dog in the state at age 11. So, he’s certainly done his duty for us,” he said.
“He’s a great dog, it’s been very rewarding and a lot of fun,” said Sgt. Bob Wagner, Rico’s partner on the North Olmsted Police Department “We’ve been through a lot of different incidents together.”
Since he’s picking up more duties as a shift supervisor, Wagner said this is a good time for Rico to retire. City policy allows Wagner to buy Rico for $1, which he quickly did.
“He could still go on duty, but you can see a few little things where he’s a little slower,” Wagner said. “He’s going to stay at home and have some fun.”
Wagner said there have literally been hundreds of drug arrests and checks through the years, as well as hunts for suspects and fugitives.
He recalled how Rico quickly showed his worth in a marijuana bust by sniffing out the drug in a vehicle shortly after the duo began work.
“We’ve worked all hours for our department, as well as for many of the other area police departments who either didn’t have their own dog or needed assistance,” he said. “We’ve worked with the Secret Service and many state and federal agencies.”
Wagner said he feels fortunate that he and Rico have never had any direct life-threatening situations as a team.
“We’ve been pretty busy through the years,” he said.
Wagner said the police department’s K-9 duties will be handled by Patrolman Bill Saringer and his canine partner, Rex.
“They’ve already done a lot of good work since they came on,” he said.
One North Olmsted resident attending the party, Bob Davis, said he has a special place in his heart for police dogs.
“One saved my life when I was stuck in a truck that had gone off the road,” he said. “I was doing long-haul driving and was going through the Donner Pass out west in bad weather. Well, I went off the road and couldn’t get out for two days.”
Davis said he had food and supplies in the truck, but knew he might be in trouble if he wasn’t found.
“People know the Donner Pass is real tough,” he said. “I was real glad when I saw that dog and his officer.”
North Olmsted Senior Center Director Jackie Chavez-Anderson said it was her honor to hold the party.
“They’re great with people,” she said of Wagner and Rico. “Look at all the people talking to him, and he’s just as nice as can be with them. I think it’s appropriate to have the party for him at the Senior Center since he’s retiring.”
Wagner admits it’s been an adjustment.
“It’s been weird,” he said. “I’m used to keeping the vehicle at a certain temperature or making adjustments for him. I’ve looked over a couple of times expecting to see him and then I remember he’s home now. But I’m glad he’s still around.”