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NMSU Police Department Canine Rio retires after one final search

After eight years of service to the New Mexico State University Police Department, Canine Rio performed her last official search Wednesday, then ceremonially transitioned to retirement, with the passing of a leash.

NMSU Interim Deputy Police Chief Andy Bowen plays with Canine Rio, a Belgian Malinois, as her reward following her final search as a police dog.
NMSU Police canine officer Rio celebrates with her partner Andy Bowen after her last search in the NMSU Police department. (NMSU photo by Harrison Brooks)
This is a close-up photo of Rio, a Belgian Malinois, eating a small cake decorated with a paw print and her name, at her retirement ceremony. Riley Bowen, 4, lo
NMSU Police canine officer Rio enjoys a piece of her cake during a retirement ceremony at the NMSU Police Department. Four-year-old Riley Bowen, daughter of Rio's partner, Andy Bowen, watches. (NMSU photo by Harrison Brooks)
This is a close-up photo of Rio, a Belgian Malinois, sitting in the grass.
NMSU Police Department Canine Rio retired from service on Wednesday, May 30. She has served the NMSU Police Department since July 2004. (Courtesy photo)

Rio, an 11 year-old Belgian Malinois, is the first canine at the NMSU Police Department, and has served NMSU and the surrounding area since July 2004.

"Over the years, she's been to two basic canine schools - with the Las Cruces Police Department back in 2004, she learned narcotics detection, tracking and evidence search, building searches for people," said NMSU Interim Deputy Chief of Police Andy Bowen. "Then in 2007, we both attended the United States Border Patrol's Basic Canine Academy and both graduated from that."

She has worked as a Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force dog, from Truth or Consequences, N.M., to Texas, working with numerous law enforcement agencies along the way. During her career, Rio assisted in the seizure of 146 pounds of marijuana, 6.1 pounds of methamphetamines, 2 grams of crack cocaine, 12 grams of heroin and $85,450 in currency. She also conducted hundreds of other searches, turning up drug paraphernalia, evidence and searching for and finding people.

She also has served as somewhat of a public relations tool for the department. "She's been a way for us to communicate with the public," Bowen said. "People would come up to us when we were out in the community just because they recognized Rio."

Bowen, who has served twice now as Rio's handler, will get to spend even more time with her in the future, as she is retiring as the new Bowen family pet.

"Now, Rio gets to go home with a pet leash marked 'Police Department Retired,'" said NMSU Interim Chief of Police Stephen Lopez.

With that, Rio was allowed to enjoy human food for the first time, eating a cake decorated with a cookie police badge and her name, while four-year-old Riley Bowen, one of Rio's new owners, looked on with a big smile.