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From K-9 officer to full-time pet: Hondo retires from Duluth Police Department after 6 years

The Duluth Police Department now has four K-9 officers and doesn't have plans to add more.

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An Essentia Health St. Mary's Children's Hospital patient reaches out to pet Duluth Police K-9 officer Hondo at the Duluth hospital in August 2016. (Clint Austin / File / News Tribune)
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After six years with the Duluth Police Department, K-9 Hondo retired Friday morning at age 7.

The German shepherd's specialty was explosives detection work. His favorite reward after a job well done was a Kong toy filled with something delicious, or fetching a rope, and he'll have no shortage of that living full time as a Hurst family pet on their hobby farm, said his handler, Officer Rob Hurst.

"We're getting close to that age where working dogs retire," Hurst said. "The department does a great job with letting the handlers kind of gauge where things are at and what they think the best decision is."

Before Hondo joined the force, he and Hurst spent six weeks in Alabama training together.

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Duluth Police Department Officer Rob Hurst poses with K-9 Hondo. (Photo courtesy of the city of Duluth)

Asked why he decided to become a handler, Hurst said his biggest motivator starting out was helping to keep other officers safe. He also learned to appreciate the way having Hondo around helped start conversations between him and members of the community.

"I'm satisfied with my career with Hondo and we had a long career together and at this point in my career," he said. "I kind of want to focus on some other areas."

There are no plans to add more K-9s to the department, Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said in a release. However, the department will evaluate opportunities and make a decision this fall prior to the next K-9 school program in February.

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Duluth Police Officer Rob Hurst and Hondo walk along a sidewalk along Superior Street near the Park State Bank in Lincoln Park shortly after it was robbed in January 2016. (Steve Kuchera / File / News Tribune)

“We would like to thank K-9 Officer Rob Hurst for his service and dedication to this community,” Tusken said. “K-9 Hondo was a huge asset at large events, and evaluating high situations. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Other dogs on the force are also able to perform explosive detection work.

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The department now has four K-9s: Athena , who joined Officer Kaine Kaase earlier this year; Riggs, who partnered with Officer Dean Bauers in 2017; Vili, who joined Officer Josh Aubart in 2020; and Kallie , who joined Officer Jeremy O'Connor in 2019.

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