The Lethbridge Police Service honoured a trio of four-legged employees on Tuesday as a grizzled veteran retired and a pair of rookie police dogs received their badges.

Police service dog (PSD) Arco was recognized alongside his partner Const. James DeMone for nearly a decade of work on the force. Arco will now live out the rest of his life as DeMone’s pet, instead of partner.

The ceremony was a changing of the guard of sorts as LPS also presented badges to a pair of rookie police dogs and their handlers: Const. Terry Fieguth and PSD Zap, as well as Const. Steven Zwartbol and PSD Aron.

The event marked the official end of the 20 weeks of training endured by dogs and their handlers.

“It’s very humbling to realize how smart these dogs are,” said Zwartbol. “You realize how quick they can learn, and how much it takes for us.”

Zwartbol and Aron completed their training at the end of August and have been on the street for a couple of weeks. He said as recently as Saturday night, his companion showed how valuable his keen sense of smell can be for an investigation.

“We had an incident at Marshalls-HomeSense on the south side of Lethbridge, and Aron was able to pick up a track and we ended up tracking two-and-a-half kilometres to the area of Montana’s (restaurant), right where one of our patrol members had spoken with somebody who matched the description from a witness,” Zwartbol said.

The partnerships go far beyond your typical full-time job.

Fieguth said the decision to join the canine unit required a serious conversation with his wife and kids; his partner Zap will live with them for the rest of his K-9 career, and after retirement.

“I share a partnership with a dog that only I can take care of, he’s my third child in a sense,” Fieguth laughed.

“But that being said, that’s what builds our bond so much, is that he relies on me and I rely on him. I can’t do my job without him.”

There have been more than 30 police service dogs in the history of the Lethbridge Police Service.

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