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Retirement ceremony held for Wheeling PD’s longest serving K-9

WHEELING — The Wheeling Police Department held a special retirement ceremony Tuesday in council chambers for Bella — WPD’s longest serving K-9.

Bella, a Dutch Malinois who turns 10-years-old this month, officially retired at the end of 2019 after serving the agency for eight and a half years, according to police department Public Information Officer Phillip Stahl.

Bella started her career at the Wheeling Police Department in July 2011 and was assigned to Sgt. Doug Howell. She was trained and certified at Ultimate Working Dogs by Tracy Landis in the areas of narcotic detection, tracking and apprehension. Bella has lived with Howell and his family since the beginning of her career and will continue to live with them following her retirement.

Over nearly the last decade, K-9 Bella and Howell have been responsible for countless arrests, taking hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs off the streets and seizing thousands of dollars from drug dealers and users — serving without any fear or reservation, according to Howell.

“Bella always looked forward to her work day. She was ready for any assignment, and she made sure we made it home safely. She did the work many would be fearful of, entered buildings many would not consider, and did it all with a wagging tail,” Howell said.

He added that Bella always enjoyed showing off her skills at local schools, the department’s annual National Night Out and on K-9 training days, along with a daytime nap between shifts. She is beloved by the community and enjoyed countless pats on the head and time to play with her fellow K-9 employees at WPD, he noted. He said she will enjoy a spoiled retirement with him, his wife, Annie, and their two children. Howell will continue to work for the police department in a supervisory position.

Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger congratulated Howell on his years of service to the city with Bella and their contributions to the K-9 division. He said he feels it is important to recognize K-9 officers as well as human ones. He presented a plaque to Howell, followed by a large retirement bone given to Bella at the conclusion of the ceremony.

“Congratulations on a job well done — 2011 to 2019 K-9 Bella,” Schwertfeger read from the plaque.

He said the police department will continue to operate with four active K-9 units until Bella’s position is eventually filled. Schwertfeger said it is very expensive to purchase and train a K-9 for police work. He said it typically costs the department between $12,000 and $15,000 to purchase and train a new police K-9.

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