While his departure may not have come with farewell speeches and a celebration, an important member of the University of Central Missouri Department of Public Safety has officially retired.

Echo, a male German Shepherd who has been a part of the Canine (K-9) Unit for approximately eight years, was retired from Public Safety due to health reasons.

Captain Dan Othic said the decision to change Echo’s status with the department was related to a condition called degenerative myelopathy, also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM). While the cause is unknown, the disease often occurs in large breed dogs. It affects the spinal cord and results in slowing progressive hind limb weakness and paralysis, according to an article written by veterinarians Dr. Tammy Hunter and R. Ernest Ward, in vcahospitals.com.

“Basically, it’s like the canine version of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease),” Othic said.

He noted that Echo was imported from Germany. He and his handler, Officer Ben Brown, trained for several weeks at K9 Working Dogs International, LLC, in Longform, Kansas, before they graduated as a team from the training program in December 2013. Echo was assigned to the evening shift, and was trained in passive narcotics detection, suspect tracking, building search, obedience, and handler protection.

He routinely was used to conduct patrols of residence halls, parking lots, and other areas around campus in addition to performing demonstrations to the university community.

Othic said when a K-9 dog is retired, it is customary for ownership to be transferred to its handler. Echo, who has resided with Brown since coming to UCM, will continue to remain in his care.

Echo is the third dog that has been a part of the UCM K-9 program since 2000. The dogs who have served before him include Tosca, then Max, both German Shepherds.
With Echo’s retirement, there are no other dogs in the canine program, which Othic said Public Safety is reviewing. This comes as other law enforcement departments are gradually moving away from use of canine units in the use of drug detection.

“We’re evaluating the program at this time. No decision has been made,” Othic said. “We’ll do lots of research.”