The Cal Poly University Police Department (UPD) celebrated the retirement of 10-year-old K-9 Xello during a private party July 25.
Xello has been with the UPD for two-and-a-half years and previously served for the Morro Bay Police Department for four-and-a-half years. While on duty, Xello protected fellow officers, located drugs and found missing children and elderly people.
Officer Stephanie Pipan has been Xello’s handler all seven years of his service.
“A police dog’s main purpose is to protect officers and the public,” Pipan said. “He is a police officer just as much as I am a police officer.”
Pipan received Xello, a pure-bred German shepherd, seven years ago from a breeder in Germany. He was originally trained as a show dog because of his winning appearance, but changed course after trainers realized his strong potential for a police dog.
Once Xello arrived in California, he and Pipan went through weeks of training in patrol, narcotics detection and hard surface tracking. After being sworn into the force, he continued less intensive training on a daily basis.
“Patrol dogs don’t get played with — training is their play time. We’re at work most days of the week, you’ll see us on the field doing some obedience, or maybe some detection work,” Pipan said. “They need to always remember what their job is so they can’t ‘lax.”
One of Pipan’s favorite moments with Xello was locating a missing juvenile. Xello was able to follow his scent over five miles and found the boy up in a tree.
“The parents were so happy and the kid got to play with Xello after,” Pipan said. “It was extremely rewarding for me because who knows what could have happened to that child?”
Xello is 10 years-old — about 70 in dog years. His fur has traces of gray and his back hips are weak, giving him a slightly slower gait.
Though Pipan and the other officers believe he still has the motivation to do the work, they have noticed him significantly slowing down during the past six months. Already relatively old to still be working (many K-9s retire around six or seven years old), Pipan decided it was time for Xello to relax.
“He has a badge, he was sworn in with both departments, so he deserves a retirement party. I talked to the chief and everyone agreed. They said he’s a police officer, he’s our partner and he has been there for everybody,” Pipan said. “So this is a ‘thank you and have a happy retirement’.”
Roughly 20 police officers, family members and friends gathered for the event. In line with Xello’s exclusively meat diet, chicken, tri-tip and sausage were barbecued outside the UPD building.
The guests laughed when dispatch officers received a call from someone nearby who smelled smoke and believed there was a fire, only to be informed the smoke’s origin was a police barbecue.
A slideshow featuring photos of Xello both on and off work played on the lunchroom television over a table of cake (one in the shape of a bone, another with Xello’s picture) and presents. The crowd circled around Xello as he greeted most guests with a smile and rub against their legs.
Deputy Chief Brenda Trobaugh announced Xello would be discharged honorably and gifted Pipan and him a shadowbox commemorating his time in the force, which included his badge and photos of him. Chief of Police George Hughes read a retirement proclamation signed by President Jeffrey Armstrong and gifted it to Pipan.
Some of Xello’s presents included a Cal Poly blanket, a K-9 stuffed animal and a large bone. Xello’s quick and enthusiastic opening of his presents prompted one police officer to jokingly ask if someone hid marijuana, one of the drugs Xello is trained to find, in a present box.
Xello will spend his retirement living with Pipan, moving from his kennel into her home. She is worried Xello will have trouble adjusting to a more relaxed lifestyle, but is excited to give him lots of attention, take him on walks and shower him with toys.
Xello will be replaced by a two-year-old German shepherd named Zeus who will also be handled by Pipan. Zeus is currently only trained in bomb detection, but will soon undergo training with Pipan in patrol and hard surface tracking. His first day is Monday, July 30.
The officers are excited for a puppy’s energy, but Pipan said they will all miss Xello.
“People were very happy to have him here — they all love him,” Pipan said. “Who doesn’t want to work with a dog?”