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On Monday, the Gainesville Police Department officially retired two of its former police dogs and introduced the department’s newest addition — two Belgian Malinois.
The new dogs, Diego and Anja, joined the city’s police force two weeks ago to replace one German shepherd who died earlier this year and another who retired at the end of October. Both Diego and Anja are from Holland.
Anja, the partner of Officer Darin Vogt, is the first female K9 to work for the police department. Vogt, a former field training officer, gave up his corporal status to become a K9 handler, said Gainesville police Chief Frank Hooper.
As full-service police dogs, Diego and Anja help the department detect controlled substances and track and apprehend suspects.
In his first two weeks on the job, Diego already has detected a controlled substance in three vehicles, said Officer Angel Vargas, his partner and handler.
“As of right now, he’s on the right road,” Vargas said. “We still have a lot of training to do and will continue to do that every day.”
The department purchased the dogs in July for $5,600 each. It took about six weeks to train them with their handlers, Vargas said.
“The dogs are a lot easier to train than the humans are,” he said.
Vargas’ former partner, Argus, died in May after suffering congestive heart failure. The department retired his ashes Monday.
During his tenure, Argus helped Vargas seize almost 41 pounds of illicit drugs, assisted with 64 arrests and successfully tracked 51 people, Hooper said.
The two traveled together to New Mexico and the Netherlands training and showing others Argus’ work abilities. Today, Argus’ ashes are in two separate urns donated by Memorial Park Funeral Home — one in the police department where he worked and the other in Vargas’ home, where Argus lived.
“It really hurt to lose him,” Vargas said.
The department also retired Carto, the German shepherd partner of Cpl. Jason King, honoring the dog for five years of service with the department.
Carto helped the department locate more than 25 suspects who fled from officers, along with missing Alzheimer’s patients and children.
With Carto’s retirement, King was promoted to a field training officer.