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Article updated: 11/7/2013 9:31 AM

Wauconda's award-winning police dog, Maxx, to retire in May

Police to welcome new dog, Varro, next week

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The Wauconda Police Department's award-winning dog, Maxx, will retire in 2014 after nearly a decade of service.

Fortunately for the village, a new dog is almost ready to replace him.

A German shepherd named Varro will be the new police dog. Varro will partner with veteran officer Keith Ringham.

Maxx's handler, Sgt. John Combs, will remain with the department but won't serve on a canine team after Maxx retires.

"Maxx has been a great partner," Combs told the Daily Herald in an email. "He also is a great family member."

A 10-year-old German shepherd, Maxx began working with Combs in 2004. It's been an illustrious career.

Among the highlights, Maxx chased and apprehended a robbery suspect, found a loaded gun that was buried under leaves by gang members and discovered a marijuana-growing operation hidden in a house.

Chief Patrick Yost called Maxx "a huge asset to the department."

Maxx has won three titles at the Illinois Regional Canine Olympics, an event created by the owner of TOPS Kennels in Grayslake. He's also educated and entertained the public through demonstrations at community events.

"Maxx really has done a wonderful job in helping the department in a public relations fashion," Yost said.

As is police tradition, Combs hopes to acquire Maxx from the village after the dog leaves police service. Typically, a handler pays a village $1 to formally convey ownership and responsibility.

"Maxx has lived with me since I got him," Combs said. "He and I spend more time with each other than I do with my own family, so of course I would want to keep him in his retirement."

Ringham and Varro are training at the TOPS center. Varro is expected to graduate from the eight-week program Friday and the duo should begin their first shift Sunday, Yost said.

Because Maxx isn't leaving police service for six months, the two dogs and their handlers will be able to work together for a while.

"It is an exciting time for officer Ringham and (Varro)," Combs said. "I am excited to be able to work with them."

Ringham couldn't be reached for comment.

The Wauconda community already is preparing for Varro's arrival. Residents have donated more than $2,000 through an online fundraising effort to purchase a custom-made, bullet-resistant vest for Varro. Yost said he was surprised to learn of the effort but welcomed the assistance.

"That's very similar to how we raised funds for (Maxx's) vest," Yost said. "I couldn't be happier. It is another sign that the people of this community really care about what's going on."

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