St. Louis County Sheriff's Office K-9 dies from cancer

Wesson worked with his handler, Deputy Ryan Smith, for the three years before his cancer diagnosis.

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K-9 Wesson served with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office from fall 2017 to January 2021, when he was diagnosed with cancer. His handler was Deputy Ryan Smith. (Photo courtesy of Herbergs Hot Shots Photography)

Less than two months after the Duluth Police Department's K-9 Luna was killed , the Northland lost another K-9 in law enforcement — this time to cancer.

K-9 Wesson, a German shepherd formerly with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, died Monday, one week shy of his fifth birthday, according to a post on the Northland K9 Foundation's Facebook page announcing his death.

Wesson's partner was Deputy Ryan Smith.

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K-9 Wesson, formerly with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, looks at his handler, Deputy Ryan Smith. Wesson died April 5, 2021, from cancer. (Photo courtesy of Herbergs Hot Shots Photography)


In January, Wesson was diagnosed with a tumor in the nasal and brain area that was inoperable. He retired from the sheriff's office after the diagnosis and spent the last few months at home with Smith and his family.

"He was an outstanding partner as well as a loving and lovable pack member. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Smith family," the St. Louis County Rescue Squad said in a post.

Wesson and Smith worked together for three years, mostly on the Iron Range and in the northern part of the county. The two had an "amazing bond," according to the foundation.

"Through it all, K-9 Wesson kept Deputy Smith safe and served our community well," the Northland K9 Foundation's post said.

Several times he tracked suspects, sniffed out narcotics and located evidence. Once he located a suicidal man in time for him to receive help. Another time he sniffed out handguns used in an assault that were wrapped in a shower curtain and disposed of in the woods.

"Your watch has ended little buddy," Smith said in the post. "Rest easy and we will take it from here."

The sheriff's office has three working K-9s: Ranger, who joined in 2019; Donny, who joined in 2020; and Louis, who joined in 2014.

The sheriff's office has mutual-aid agreements with other law enforcement departments, Dana Kazel, spokesperson for the St. Louis County and Northland K9 Foundation board member, told the News Tribune. That means K-9 teams will help each other as needed. The K-9s from various departments often train together.

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