It was not your typical Redstone retirement ceremony. There was the standard certificate presentation. There were refreshments. But there were also head pats, ear scratches and tail wags.
After 10 years of Army service, legendary Military Working Dog Laco retired Friday in a ceremony at the Police Department Kennels. Even though his retirement was medically-related, Laco is expected to have many more years at his new home with Redstone veterinarian Dr. Mary Krothapalli.
Laco, a Belgian malinois, spent 10 years at Redstone, although his reputation extended beyond the gates as one of the top explosive detection dogs in the Army.
“He was the John Wayne of dogs. He’s been a big part of Redstone,” Capt. Sean Lulofs, kennel master, said. “He has an awesome reputation here.”
Like the Duke, Laco’s exploits are legendary in the K-9 branch of the Directorate of Operations Law Enforcement Division. After fracturing his hip, the only indication Laco gave was a slight limp, leaving the veterinarian shocked at the X-rays. When he dislocated his jaw while training, Laco didn’t stop but rather pushed his jaw back into alignment with his paw. The K-9 took his job so seriously that he did not present any symptoms when undergoing his twice-yearly bloodwork. Krothapalli noticed an abnormality and subsequently found a mass on his spleen. Laco traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, for surgery to remove the tumor.
“They saved his life,” Officer James Roland, Laco’s handler of four years, said.
Although the operation was successful and Laco is expected to fully recover, the decision was made that he had faithfully served his country and would retire. Laco quickly acclimated to being a civilian, enjoying walks with Krothapalli and lounging in front of the fireplace.
“He’s a little spoiled already,” Krothapalli said.
The military dogs assist in protecting the physical security of the installation. With Laco’s retirement and the Monday arrival of newest working dog Pparis, the Military Working Dog Section has four K-9s that patrol the perimeter and dispatch to special events. Although each dog is specially trained, the officers at the ceremony Friday agreed that among the best of the best, Laco was special.
“He is just a top-notch dog,” Lulofs said.