After 10 years of active duty, Tiko, a police K-9 who served the City of Mission in a variety of ways, was granted his official retirement by the Mission City Council in its Monday, Nov. 24, meeting.
Tiko’s handler, Roque Vela, and his family are adopting him. The K-9 is retiring from active service because of a lesion in the lumbar area and arthritic that limits his mobility.
Tiko, a yellow Labrador retriever, started work for the Mission Police Department in 2008; he was a gift to the city from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where he served in the military before coming to Mission.
Since arriving in Mission ,Tiko has been credited with the discovery 55 pounds of marijuana, 70 kilos of cocaine, 90 kilos of meth and $2 million. He also was responsible for the city receiving numerous vehicles due to drug-related charges.
Police Chief Robert Dominguez said the average dog works eight to 12 years before retirement. Although Tiko is a retriever, the preferred breeds for police work are German shepherds and Belgian malinois.
“Mission was possibly the first police force in the Valley to use the K-9s,” Dominguez said. “Former Police Chief Patrick Dalagher brought the first dogs to the force in the 1990s. Most larger Valley cities use dogs as part of their team now. The dogs are assigned to a handler and go to work when he works. They get two days off a week but they work whatever shift the officer works, whether it is days, midnights or graveyards.”
Mission currently has four dogs that are used in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some police dogs like Tiko are especially trained to search for drugs. They can also be used for tracking people at crime scenes and looking for goods from burglaries that may have been stashed nearby.
Dominguez said there are now dogs trained to seek out explosives and smell ammunition, bomb powders, fuses and other bomb components. Those dogs work at the international bridges.
“Having dogs working the bridge can help us detect the illegal movement of arms and ammunition into Mexico,” Dominguez said.
Dogs cost from $8,000 to $10,000, which is over the budget of smaller police forces in the Valley. But now with new region-wide cooperation policy, Mission assists smaller departments, especially in the western part of the county, by taking dogs to work crime scenes or help with drug searches when needed.
Dominguez believes the dogs are a vital part of drug curtailment along the border because they can smell the drugs.
“Mission has 13 miles of river front to patrol and people can try to bring drugs across at any point along the river front,” he said.
A new German shepherd has been in a training program for several months and is ready to go to work to replace Tiko. Dominguez said this dog was also a donation to the city, and he hoped to get the person who donated the dog to come to Mission for a special presentation in December.