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Baxter police make tough decision to end K-9 Rossi's police career

Rossi and Joe.JPG
Baxter Police K-9 handler Joe Sundgaard with Rossi in a 2017 photograph when the due was in training. This past week, Rossi retired due to an injury. Dispatch file photo
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K-9 Rossi handed in his police gear Tuesday, Aug. 18, officially retiring from the Baxter Police Department.

The Baxter City Council unanimously approved Rossi’s retirement.

Rossi is a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois who started with the police department in September 2017, when he was 8 weeks old. Rossi succeeded K-9 Gator, who retired after being with the city since 2008.

Baxter Police Sgt. Matt Maier runs to avoid the grasp of K-9 Rossi Tuesday during a demonstration in Oscar Kristofferson Park during Baxter’s Night to Unite celebration. Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch Gallery
Baxter Police Sgt. Matt Maier runs to avoid the grasp of K-9 Rossi Tuesday during a demonstration in Oscar Kristofferson Park during Baxter’s Night to Unite celebration. Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch Gallery

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Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted prepared a resolution for the council on the retirement that stated: “Due to an unfortunate injury sustained by Rossi and the inability of the veterinarians to determine if a second surgery will be successful, we have made the decision to retire K-9 Rossi from the force.

RELATED: Rossi, Sundgaard take top honors at K-9 trials
“As a part of the retirement a foster home has been arranged for Rossi. We are seeking council approval to separate Rossi as a city asset. That action will release Rossi to the foster home.”

Exsted believes Rossi injured his knee in June 2019 during the K-9 trials while doing agility skills as part of his training. Rossi took a medical leave for about six months while he recovered from his injury. Exsted said the K-9 was doing fine when he came back to work but began limping this past spring. After receiving different opinions from several veterinarians, the department made the decision to retire the dog.

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Exsted is hopeful to have another police dog in the future, but right now it is in the city council’s hands. The city council currently is reviewing its upcoming budget and if it appears the city can continue the K-9 program, the council will make that decision.

Exsted said if the police department does get another dog they will train it in house, like they did with Rossi as it saved the city thousands of dollars.

RELATED: Back to being a dog again: Baxter K-9 Gator retires
When Rossi came to the Baxter Police Department, his handler was police officer Joe Sundgaard. Rossi trained alongside Gator, who also is a Belgian Malinois. Rossi stayed with Sundgaard for the first part of his police career and then partnered with police officer Taylor Halvorson after he recovered from his initial injury.

Exsted said Rossi now is in a good home with a foster family.

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JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.

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