If you live in Central Texas you've likely heard of Lobos the drug dog.
Interstate 10, which runs from California to Florida, is a known corridor for the cartel and drug runners. Unfortunately for them, I-10 runs through Fayette County and that territory belongs to Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Randy Thumann and his K9 partner, a Belgian Malinois named Lobos.
Millions of dollars worth of drugs off the streets.
Sgt. Thumann was recently recognized by the National Criminal Interdiction Conference for the largest single methamphetamine seizure in the nation, which totaled 130.1 pounds. But for him, that’s nothing.
“I’ve gotten a lot of plaques, I’ve won guns, recognized by senators and state representatives and that’s great, I’m glad that they appreciate all of the hard work, but the real award for me is actually finding the dope in the car. After the hours of training and the hours of stopping cars, to actually find the car that has the dope, that’s the reward that I look for,” Thumann explained.
Thumann is the epitome of a man who loves his job.
“That’s why he’s so successful at what he does, because he loves what he does, and Lobos is the same way,” said Lieutenant David Beyer. “I think he loves the job, loves doing it, and that’s why they’re so good at it.”
Just how good at it are they? Well, if the recent award doesn’t tell you enough, just last year Thumann and Lobos collected the following:
- Methamphetamine: 224.27 pounds. Estimated street value: $10,172,997.20
- Cocaine: 143.11 pounds. Estimated street value: $6,491,469.60
- Heroin: 17.82 pounds. Estimated street value: $808,315.20
- Marijuana: 882.6 pounds. Estimated street value: $485,430
- Cash: $963,182
That’s $18,921,394 in illegal products seized by one man and his K9 partner in only one year of their six-year career together.
The start of a legend.
Thumann has been with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office for about eight years. He started as a patrol officer then moved to undercover, and then he asked for a K9.
Lobos wasn’t Thumann’s first partner. His first dog was Knight, a German Shepherd. Unfortunately, Knight died on the job six years ago.
“That was a tough one,” said Lieutenant Beyer. “But then we got Lobos, and he’s been just as good or better.”
Lobos was born in the Czech Republic. He was imported to the American Society of Canine Trainers, or ASCT, in Virginia, where he started his training. After passing several tests, Lobos was certified to do Narcotics, Tracking, Bite Work and Handler Protection. After his certification, Lobos was matched with Thumann.
The trainer matched Lobos and Thumann based on the way that they work.
“We work well together. He never complains, he’s always ready to work,” Thumann said with a smile. “When I want to play, he wants to play. When I want to work, he wants to work. It’s great.”
“He’s almost like me,” Thumann said. “Like, ‘If you’re not going to do it then I’ll do it’ -- he has that mentality. Say, we’re gonna do a building search. If I want to stay outside, he’s fine with that. He’ll go search the building himself, he’s not too concerned.”
Although Lobos is a tough, criminal-catching K9, he’s still a dog and his biggest motivator is, of course, his ball.
“His ball drive is through the roof,” Thumann said.
‘Ball drive,’ or a dog’s responsiveness to their ball or toy, is one of the ways that trainers pick a good K9. Dogs who are highly motivated by their toys tend to respond better to training, Thumann explained.
A wall of memories.
Hanging above Thumann’s desk are pictures of all of the drug seizures he’s completed with both Lobos and Knight.
The walls are covered with pictures of Thumann, Knight and Lobos posing with a variety of confiscated drugs and cash with every type of vehicle imaginable.
“I know the story behind each and every one,” Thumann explained. “I guess you put that much work into finding this stuff and when you find it it’s a memory, it never goes away.”
Some of the pictures show fire extinguishers, batteries and compartments in which the criminals hid their drugs. Thumann said he's even found drugs in a septic tank truck.
Once, they found 12 kilos of cocaine hidden behind the license plate of a 2017 car. The cocaine had an estimated street value of $1.3 million.
“If it’s not in a bag, it’s gonna be a crazy place,” he laughed.
“The first battery load that I got that had cocaine in it … I hadn’t even seen the briefings on the battery loads yet,” Thumann remembered. “So, I stopped the car, all the indicators were there during the interview, I got consent to search the vehicle but decided to run the dog first. He jumped into the back of the truck crawled over the roof of the truck down to the windshield cowling and alerted.”
“So I cut the truck off, opened the hood and he jumped into the engine compartment and started scratching on the battery, I mean real hard, it was a for sure thing, like ‘It’s right here,’” he said. “He’s telling me it’s in this battery but in my mind I’m like ‘It can’t be in that battery.’ But during the training that we got in Virginia, the one thing they always harped on was ‘Always trust your dog. Always trust your dog. Never doubt your dog.’ It was a big step to run a drill through a battery that was actually connected to the car, but that’s what I did and we got like six kilos of cocaine out of it ... That was pretty amazing.”
Fetching more than drugs.
Drugs aren’t the only thing that Thumann and Lobos have found together. They’ve located missing children and hiding criminals.
Beyer said that the duo was once able to help find an elderly man who had wandered from his home and fallen in the woods. When Lobos and Thumann found him, the man was dehydrated and not in good shape.
“He probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer,” Beyer said.
The man’s family and local police had spent hours looking for him, but Lobos led Thumann straight to the man.
But most of their day is spent conducting traffic stops and searching for drugs.
“Most of the time it’s boring,” Thumann said about sitting on the highway watching for traffic violations. “But it’s all worth it when you get that one.”
“Everyone gets to see the result of a lot of hard work,” Beyer explained.
Here's a glimpse at their accomplishments:
- Deputies find cocaine taped to driver's body
- Lobos sniffs out 175 pounds of marijuana in traffic stop
- Lobos finds $6.9M heroin in traffic stop
- Lobos finds $1.3M cocaine hidden behind license plate
- Lobos, handler find $1.6M worth of cocaine in toolbox inside car
- Lobos seizes $88,000 during traffic stop
- Lobos finds 105 pounds of marijuana during traffic stop
- K9 Lobos finds lost child in tree surround by donkeys
- Deputies find 5 kilos of cocaine hidden under child seats
- Missing elderly man found alive behind abandoned 18-wheeler
All good stories must come to an end.
Lobos is now 8-years-old. He’s spent six of those years on the job and is nearing retirement. Typically, K9s retire after five years, but during his re-certification last year Lobos seemed to be in good shape, so they decided to give him some more time on the job.
They don’t know when exactly Lobos will leave, but when he does he will move on to live the retired life, and Thumann will find a new partner.
And as long as Thumann is in Fayette County, criminals should steer clear.