Photo courtesy of Monroe Police: Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh and his partner Officer Jason Southard went on hundreds of tracks around the region while on duty and attended countless community events off duty together. They’d been partners for 3 1/2 years.
Photo courtesy of Monroe Police: Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh and his partner Officer Jason Southard went on hundreds of tracks around the region while on duty and attended countless community events off duty together. They’d been partners for 3 1/2 years.

When Jason Southard finishes work, his 9-year-old wants to know all about the details of the day, especially any tracks.

The father-daughter after-work discussion may not be uncommon, but it is one of the rare scenarios where a member of law enforcement and his partner walk through the front door together each night. The Monroe Police officer and his family took K9 Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh into their home more than three years ago and didn’t look back.

“Most people get to spend time with their dog,” Southard said. “I got to spend my life with him.”

The 5-year-old purebred German Shepard succumbed to an intestinal disorder he struggled with for at least half of his life right before Christmas. His handler said changing dietary habits and supplemental medications had been enough to alleviate the symptoms for years.

Eventually those efforts would stop working, so, they tried a new regimen. It wasn’t until last May when it became obvious to Southard and his colleagues how dramatically Nuke’s condition had worsened.

Mayor Geoffrey Thomas advised staff to lower the city of Monroe’s flagpole to half-mast on Dec. 29. It was three days after Nuke’s death was announced to the public.

Police Chief Tim Quenzer and staff honored Southard and Nuke’s partnership at last Tuesday’s Monroe City Council meeting. He touted their impressive track record. Together the pair successfully located anyone from criminals to lost children.

Nuke made a name for himself throughout the region, Quenzer said. He was also well known in the community, having been present at local events, such as Monroe’s National Night Out, which draws a crowd of thousands every year, and the demonstrations held for visiting groups at the Monroe Police Department. 

“He will be greatly missed,” Quenzer said.

Southard and his wife were with Nuke during his last moments. He was wearing his tracking harness and had his favorite ball. Weeks after they said goodbye, Southard recalls with admiration their time together. One of his favorite facts about Nuke was the origin of his name.

“I am a lifelong baseball fan with a corny sense of humor,” he wrote in an email. “He is named after a character in the Movie “Bull Durham.” Tim Robbins character Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh.”

Southard has been with the Monroe Police Department for more than two decades. He started out as reserve, and after months at the job he volunteered to work as a quarry, which is also known as an agitator or decoy. Essentially, he would help handlers train their animal partners.

Some days that meant spending hours outdoors hiding in the woods while it rained until a team could track him down. Others, he would don protective gear and act as the subject of an aggressive attack.

Despite the demanding tasks, it allowed him to learn about the dynamics of partnering with a canine. He became familiar with their behaviors and personalities. It was inviting, he said.   

“They weren’t even mine, yet you fall in love with these dogs, and they are truly the best partner any officer could have,” Southard said.

His first K9 was Joker. For Southard to secure the partnership, he had to go through a competitive testing process. They worked together for a few years before the animal tracker finished up his career with another officer.

Next came Nuke.

Southard said the selection process was daunting — the dog was actually chosen for him. He and Nuke trained for 400 hours together with help from a master trainer from Seattle. He said he couldn’t have picked a better dog.

Their compatibility was ideal. The canine’s demeanor was perfect. Nuke’s natural disposition eventually made him become what Southard calls “the community’s dog.”

“He was probably one of the sweetest patrol K9s I have ever met, which is a little bit of a rarity,” Southard said. “He was just super sweet, which surprised me that he was able to go out and be a patrol dog and go find bad guys and hold onto them...”

The man and his dog went on hundreds of tracks together. They were deployed throughout Snohomish County and occasionally into King County. He remembers a recent case where Nuke followed the scent of a suspect who had broke into a convenience store.

The trail led them into a swamp. Nuke and Southard ended up going swimming. They went until they exhausted themselves, and then took a break. After the recovery, the two went out again and picked up where another team left off. They were eventually able to find the suspect and take him into custody.

Southard recalls another incident where the pair had to cover a 1.5-mile stretch of gravel road. They were greeted by a suspect who went for his knife. After assessing the situation and giving the man a chance to surrender, the officer directed Nuke to make physical contact.

“You never want to put your dog in a position where they might get harmed,” Southard said.

In that case it appeared more likely Nuke would be able to take down the suspect. That resulted in no one ending up too hurt. Working as a team increases the odds that it will be a far better outcome, he said.

The mutual understanding it takes to accomplish such tasks takes unrelenting trust, Southard said. He wishes he could say it took a while to develop between the two, but instead it grew naturally. If the officer was there, Nuke felt safe. Likewise, Southard trusted his partner with his life.

His daughter is far from the only other person besides his handler who was able to establish a strong bond with the K9. Southard’s 11-year-old son would act as a quarry with Nuke. The trio eventually did a demonstration together at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in the summer 2016.

There were so many people, especially in the department, who contributed to Nuke’s success as a tracker, Southard said. He was known and adored throughout the community. It was very difficult telling people that his beloved partner would not survive.

Nuke was no longer allowed to work by September. He would still go on patrols with his handler. If he was left at home, Southard’s wife would call and tell her husband he needed to come get the dog, who would be depressed and laying by the door.

Southard said the family and department did everything they could to try to keep Nuke healthy. That is why it was nothing short of heartbreaking to find out those efforts weren’t going to work.

He said he feels their time together was cut short, but his love is in being a handler. When the department decides it is time for a new tracker, he said he’ll be ready.

The officer has always been a worker, he said, and being back on duty and experiencing normalcy is helping him get through this period. The community’s outpour of support and that of his fellow officers has been indescribable.

What sticks out even more is the fact that Nuke impacted the lives of so many people, Southard said. Moving forward he wants to keep alive what he calls the “Nuke standard,” now knowing what kind of relationship he can have with his K9 and his dog can have with Monroe.

“I sure loved him,” he said.