The La Crosse Police Department retired its first official narcotics-detection canine Monday and swore in the newest member of its canine unit.

Ralph, a black Labrador retriever, joined the agency at 18 months old in January 2008. Partnered with officer Tony LeQue, Ralph was deployed 218 times in the last half of his career.

“It’s always hard to retire a canine,” La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer said. “They’re a part of our family and a part of the community.”

In February, Ralph found about 200 grams of methamphetamine during two traffic stops and took first place with a perfect score at the United States Police Canine Association Narcotics Detection Certification trials in March.

Ralph retired with a certificate “which he can proudly display in his kennel,” Tischer said.

Ralph worked his last shift Sunday and will live with LeQue in retirement.

“It’s going to be hard going to work without him,” LeQue said.

Luc, a 3-year-old German Shepherd from Germany, is partnered with night-shift officer Dakota Jelinski and trained in narcotics detection, tracking and handler protection.

Jelinski hopes Luc can begin working later this month, joining department canines Zaback, Brutus and Grumman.

“I’m looking forward to the responsibility,” Jelinski said. “I had the opportunity to work with my best friend every day and I took it.”

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Police and courts reporter

Anne Jungen covers law enforcement and the criminal justice system in La Crosse County. She joined the Tribune reporting staff in December 2005. You can contact her directly at ajungen@lacrossetribune.com or 608-791-8224.

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