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K9 of Tucson

(and her Handler, Sergeant Ryan Azuelo)
By Stacey Gregory
 Luna K9 Tucson Police Department

There are three things Luna lives for: toys, working, and her handler Ryan Azuelo. This German-born Belgian Malinois was hand-picked to join the K9 unit at the Tucson Police Department five and a half years ago. Her temperament and love of toys made her the perfect partner for Tucson native Sergeant Azuelo, who landed the coveted position as a K9 handler with her. The pair live and work together, patrolling the streets of Tucson and bringing joy to Tucsonans at countless demonstrations across the city.

Luna starts her day sniffing Sergeant Azuelo’s wardrobe. If it’s civilian clothes, she’s content to stay home, but when she sees the uniform, she’s ready to go to work. Sergeant

Azuelo is one of three handlers on TPD’s SWAT team; however, all of the K9s, including Luna, are SWAT certified.She enjoys working with SWAT and closely with the Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force assisting with high-risk arrests.

“She knows when it’s go-time,” said Sergeant Azuelo. “Most dogs will lay down in the backseat of a vehicle until it’s time to go. Luna rests her head on the headrest or has her nose on the window, smearing it back and forth, watching for any action. As soon as we move toward the door, she wants out.”

Once they hit the ground, Luna scouts for suspects. She can uncover bad guys hiding in bushes or out in the desert using her keen sense of smell to guide her. Her talents lead to safe arrests that save lives. 

“We did a jump on a wanted subject known to be armed as he exited a convenience store. As we went in to detain him, he took off running,” said Sergeant Azuelo. “His hand immediately went to his waistband, going for a weapon. I released Luna, and she took him to the ground before he could get the gun. That saved his and the officers’ lives because he couldn’t fire that gun.” 

While she lives for this kind of action, not all of Luna’s duties are this daring. 

Luna K9 Tucson Police Department
 Luna K9 Tucson Police Department
Lunca K9 Tucson Police Department

Luna About Town

When Luna is on patrol, she is all business. But when it’s time to interact with the public, she’s all toys and tail wags. She’s one of the favorite dogs for community demonstrations at elementary schools and businesses like Amazon. The pair are requested for all sorts of public appearances, showcasing her skills and building relationships with the citizens. 
And her nose knows her favorite places around town. From a dead sleep, she’ll realize when Sergeant Azuelo is within a mile radius of the police station and start panting and wagging her tail. Same for Reid Park and The University of Arizona Mall. 

“We’ll go out to The U of A Mall and go off-leash. I’ll be throwing the Frisbee, and as long as there’s not a lot of people, we’ll play out on the grass,” said Officer Azuelo.
Drinks and eats

Every dog loves a pup cup, and that includes Luna. You might see her sticking her head out the window in the drive-thru to get her a sweet treat—the pair frequent Black Rock Coffee and Starbucks, where Sergeant Azuelo sometimes brings her inside. 
While Sergeant Azuelo doesn’t take Luna to lunch, he does eat with fellow officers. Tucked away on South Plumber Avenue. is Kiss of Smoke BBQ. He prefers this family-owned and-operated barbecue joint to chain restaurants. It’s open from 10 a.m. until its award-winning meats are sold out. 

Say Hi to Your Local K9

K9 Luna retired on May 20, 2023, after a stellar career with Sergeant Azuelo when he was promoted to sergeant. She will remain with him as a loyal and loving pet. While you won’t see these two on patrol, TPD’s active K9s and their handlers welcome you to approach them in public. Just make sure to ask to touch their dog first.
“Each K9 is different, and when they’re on the job, they are friendly, but they are working,” said Sergeant Azuelo.

About Sergeant Ryan Azuelo

Sergeant Azuelo grew up in a law enforcement family, where he and his brother followed in his dad’s footsteps. The patriarch of the family was on SWAT and the supervisor of the auto theft task force, retiring from the Tucson Police Department (TPD) in 2015 after more than 30 years. So in 2008, Azuelo joined TPD and has risen in the ranks with 11 years on SWAT, five and a half as a K9 officer, and now as sergeant. His love for Luna delayed his attempt at testing for his recent promotion. He waited until she could retire to remain with him and his family always. 

Sergeant Azuelo
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