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Duke, ECPD's senior four-legged officer, to retire tonight

Weeks after he was arrested in a child sex sting, a Wausau man agreed to meet a 14-year-old girl in Eau Claire.

Before police could arrest Griffin Waldinger, he fled, leading officers on a high-speed chase — even though road conditions were slippery — before crashing his vehicle into a tree.

Waldinger took off, and Eau Claire police Officer Jason Ruppert, who was involved in the pursuit, yelled out the window for him to stop. Waldinger kept on running.

Ruppert then stopped his vehicle and released his four-legged partner — Duke — who took off after Waldinger, who was at least two houses away.

When he got close, Duke jumped up, bit Waldinger’s arm in an effort to apprehend him and brought the man down to the ground.

“That was a good apprehension,” Ruppert said. “To Duke, that is playing. That isn’t him trying to harm someone.”

Tonight, Duke — the Eau Claire Police Department’s senior four-legged patrol officer — will join Ruppert for their last shift together.

The hard-charging Belgian Malinois is expected to spend the night whining, but that is a good thing, said Ruppert, partnered with Duke since 2011.

“He gets very excited when we’re responding to calls,” said Ruppert, who can hear Duke whining from the backseat of their K-9 patrol vehicle. “To Duke, that’s not work. He’s going to play.”

To the 9½-year-old Duke, play is apprehending a suspect, searching buildings, tracking missing people and suspects, and using his nose to find drugs — he’s trained to detect cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as Ecstasy.

“Duke has been an amazing dog for us for the last seven years, and we’re proud of him,” Deputy Chief Chad Hoyord said. “Jason has done an awesome job as a handler, and (together), they have had a good run.”

Not having his partner in the backseat is going to be different in the coming year as is going from the midnight shift to the day shift, Ruppert said. However, for the next year, he plans to continue to train with the department’s two other K-9 teams — Officer Ian O’Connell and Jake, a German shepherd, and Officer Austin Summers and Manso, a Belgian Malinois. Jake joined the department in 2017 and Manso in 2018. Unlike Duke, whose commands are in Dutch, Jake’s are in German, and Manso’s are in French.

“They always say you make more mistakes with your first dog,” Ruppert said. “It’s my goal that they won’t repeat the mistakes I’ve made.”

The department added its first K-9 officer, Marko, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, in July 1990, according to newspaper archives. He died in April 1995 following stomach surgery. Marko was followed by Arko, who retired in 2004. His replacement, Larry, didn’t work out and was replaced by Franko, a black German shepherd who retired in 2011.

Ruppert, who has been with the department for 21½ years, got to watch Arko and Franko, and their handlers, Sgt. Mike Graf and Officer Bill Wisener, who have both since retired, on the job.

When the department was looking for another handler, Ruppert, who has always been interested in dogs, put in for the assignment.

In September 2011, he headed off for training in Albuquerque, N.M., where he was partnered with a dog, but that animal was unable to perform the necessary tasks to be part of a K-9 team. Ruppert and Duke then were partnered.

“I’m surprised how quickly we bonded,” Ruppert said of his four-legged partner. “Maybe he knew I was there for him.”

When the pair returned to Eau Claire, Duke joined Ruppert on the job and at home as the department’s prior dogs had done.

“Jason is with Duke a lot, and that really creates a bond, a partnership,” said Hoyord, a proponent of using K-9 teams.

“Before the department had a K-9 (team), if officers found an open door to a business, they’d have to go in and check the building,” Hoyord said. “Now, you can send the dog in to search the building, potentially keeping officers out of harm’s way.”

In addition, “these dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and (our dogs) have been very useful to help us locate certain kinds of drugs and get them off the street.”

Just recently, Ruppert and Duke assisted on a case, and Duke alerted on a vehicle, resulting in the seizure of about 180 grams of methamphetamine the biggest seizure of meth in the department’s history.

Thinking back over their partnership, Ruppert recalled other calls on which Duke demonstrated his abilities.

In spring 2012, an elderly man with Alzheimer’s walked away from home. Several hours after he left, Ruppert was called to see if Duke could potentially track the man, who had left in a T-shirt despite the cold weather.

The K-9 team responded and tracked the man for about a quarter-mile before finding him near the Chippewa River.

“That was pretty cool,” said Ruppert, noting the man would have died in the cold had he not been found by officers. “One of the things you learn when you start out in this position is to trust your dog, and I do.”

In February that same year, officers were sent to B&B Electric on Western Avenue after a burglar alarm went off. When they arrived, officers encountered one man and arrested him a short time later.

Duke, along with Ruppert, tracked a second suspect for several blocks before finding him hiding behind another business.

“That was pretty amazing,” Ruppert recalled. “We were standing in a group of guys trying to figure out what we were going to do, and Duke just started pulling me to the guy.”

“It’s really amazing to see what these dogs can do, to watch them work through certain problems,” Ruppert said. “Watching Duke progress to the dog he is now is one of the coolest things I’ve seen.”

Over the years, “he has done an outstanding job, and I think he’s going to enjoy retirement,” Ruppert said. “I’m going to make sure he does.”

As they have during his service to the city, Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital, Paws & Claws and Pet Food Plus will continue to help care for Duke, providing veterinary care, any necessary boarding and food.

“What they are doing has allowed us to have the program we have,” Ruppert said.



What: Eau Claire Police Department K-9 Fund.

When: Established in 2006 to support the program.

Where: Eau Claire Community Foundation.

To donate: Send a check to Eau Claire Community Foundation, 306 S. Barstow St., Suite 104, Eau Claire, WI 54701. Make checks payable to ECCF and put K-9 in the memo.

Local family's baby comes early, becoming first born in Eau Claire in 2019

When ringing in the new year, many people celebrate with a toast or maybe even a kiss at midnight. One local family celebrated a little differently than most: They welcomed a new addition to their family.

Jessica Ortiz of Lake Hallie gave birth to daughter Magdalena Ortiz at 4:28 a.m. Tuesday at Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire, making her the first baby born in the city this year.

Weighing in at 7 pounds, 13 ounces and measuring 20½ inches long, Magdalena Ortiz was sporting a onesie Tuesday afternoon that appropriately read “Little Miss New Year.”

Jessica and her husband, Jorge, were expecting Magdalena to be born Jan. 11, but the early arrival was a “fun surprise,” Jessica said. Having the first baby of the new year in Eau Claire was not something the Ortiz family anticipated, she said.

“Especially with the early due date, we didn’t really see it coming,” Jessica said.

Jessica went into labor just as she was finishing up some last minute errands around noon Monday, but labor didn’t become “intense” until about midnight Monday, she said.

Maybe most excited of all for Magdalena’s arrival was her big sister, Paloma Ortiz.

Paloma, 4, was bouncing around the room Tuesday afternoon, exclaiming to her parents about her love for her new sister and excitement toward becoming a big sister.

“She’s been really looking forward to it and been wanting to get practice doing all the big sister things,” Jessica said.

As for expectations for the new year, Jessica said they’re looking forward to spending a lot of time with the family.

“Everybody at home is really excited to have her around,” Jorge said.

The first baby of 2019 born at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire was Penelope Brinkman, who was born at 12:52 p.m. Tuesday to Alecia and Nick Brinkman of Chippewa Falls, hospital spokeswoman Kristen Everett said. No babies were born at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital as of early Tuesday evening, according to a hospital representative.

Low carb? Low fat? What the latest dieting studies tell us

NEW YORK — Bacon and black coffee for breakfast, or oatmeal and bananas?

If you’re planning to try to lose weight in 2019, you’re sure to find a fierce debate online and among friends and family about how best to do it. It seems like everyone has an opinion, and new fads emerge every year.

Two major studies last year provided more fuel for a particularly polarizing topic — the role carbs play in making us fat. The studies gave scientists some clues, but, like other nutrition studies, they can’t say which diet — if any — is best for everyone.

That’s not going to satisfy people who want black-and-white answers, but nutrition research is extremely difficult, and even the most respected studies come with big caveats. People are so different that it’s all but impossible to conduct studies that show what really works over long periods of time.

Before embarking on a weight loss plan for the new year, here’s a look at some of what was learned last year.

Fewer carbs, fewer pounds?

It’s no longer called the Atkins Diet, but the low-carb school of dieting has been enjoying a comeback. The idea is that the refined carbohydrates in foods like white bread are quickly converted into sugar in our bodies, leading to energy swings and hunger.

By cutting carbs, the claim is that weight loss will be easier because your body will instead burn fat for fuel while feeling less hungry. A recent study seems to offer more support for low-carb proponents. But, like many studies, it tried to understand just one sliver of how the body works.

The study, co-led by an author of books promoting low-carb diets, looked at whether varying carb levels might affect how the body uses energy. Among 164 participants, it found those on low-carb diets burned more total calories than those on high-carb diets.

The study did not say people lost more weight on a low-carb diet — and didn’t try to measure that. Meals and snacks were tightly controlled and continually adjusted so everyone’s weights stayed stable.

David Ludwig, a lead author of the paper and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, said it suggests limiting carbs could make it easier for people to keep weight off once they’ve lost it. He said the approach might work best for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Ludwig noted the study wasn’t intended to test long-term health effects or real-world scenarios in which people make their own food. The findings also need to be replicated to be validated, he said.

Caroline Apovian of Boston University’s School of Medicine said the findings are interesting fodder for the scientific community, but that they shouldn’t be taken as advice for the average person looking to lose weight.

Do I avoid fat to be skinny?

For years, people were advised to curb fats, which are found in foods including meat, nuts, eggs, butter and oil. Cutting fat was seen as a way to control weight, since a gram of fat has twice as many calories than the same amount of carbs or protein.

Many say the advice had the opposite effect by inadvertently giving us license to gobble up fat-free cookies, cakes and other foods that were instead full of the refined carbs and sugars now blamed for our wider waistlines.

Nutrition experts gradually moved away from blanket recommendations to limit fats for weight loss. Fats are necessary for absorbing important nutrients and can help us feel full. That doesn’t mean you have to subsist on steak drizzled in butter to be healthy.

Bruce Y. Lee, a professor of international health at Johns Hopkins, said the lessons learned from the anti-fat fad should be applied to the anti-carb fad: don’t oversimplify advice.

“There’s a constant look for an easy way out,” Lee said.

Which is better?

Another big study this past year found low-carb diets and low-fat diets were about equally as effective for weight loss. Results varied by individual, but after a year, people in both groups shed an average of 12 to 13 pounds.

The author noted the findings don’t contradict Ludwig’s low-carb study. Instead, they suggest there may be some flexibility in the ways we can lose weight. Participants in both groups were encouraged to focus on minimally processed foods like produce and meat prepared at home. Everyone was advised to limit added sugar and refined flour.

“If you got that foundation right, for many, that would be an enormous change,” said Christopher Gardner of Stanford University and one of the study’s authors.

Limiting processed foods could improve most diets by cutting down overall calories, while still leaving wiggle room for people’s preferences. That’s important, because for a diet to be effective, a person has to be able to stick to it. A breakfast of fruit and oatmeal may be filling for one person but leave another hungry soon after.

Gardner notes the study had its limitations. Participants’ diets weren’t controlled. People were instead instructed on how to achieve eating a low-carb or low-fat in regular meetings with dietitians, which may have provided a support network most dieters don’t have.

What works?

In the short term, you can probably lose weight by eating only raw foods, or going vegan, or cutting out gluten, or following another diet plan that catches your eye. But what will work for you over the long term is a different question.

Zhaoping Li, director of clinical nutrition division at the University of California, Los Angeles, said there is no single set of guidelines that help everyone lose weight and keep it off. It’s why diets often fail — they don’t factor into account the many factors that drive us to eat what we do.

To help people lose weight, Li examines her patients’ eating and physical activity routines to identify improvements people will be able to live with.

“What sticks is what matters,” Li said.

Walker to advocate in speeches for conservative issues, help re-elect Trump

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that after he leaves office next week he will travel the country and talk in new ways about conservative issues, while helping in the effort to re-elect President Donald Trump.

The details about his future plans were the first Walker has given publicly since he lost his bid for a third term in November to Democrat Tony Evers, the Wisconsin state schools superintendent. Evers replaces Walker on Monday.

Walker, in a New Year’s email to his supporters, even made a plug for himself saying, “Be sure to consider requesting me for meetings, conferences and other events across the nation.” Walker said he will join a speakers’ bureau and “focus on new methods to articulate a conservative message” while advocating for lowering taxes and overhauling the tax code.

Walker made his name nationally during his first term when he effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers and defeated a recall attempt. He cut taxes by $8 billion over eight years while enacting a host of conservative priorities, before running for president in 2015. He dropped out shortly after Donald Trump got into the race.

Walker, 51, has been in public office for 25 years including the past eight as governor. His loss to Evers was his first since 1990, when at age 22, he first ran for the state Assembly.

After his loss to Evers, Walker was coy about what he would do next. But he revealed some of his general plans in a New Year’s email sent to his supporters on Tuesday, saying he intends to continue living in Wisconsin with his wife and near his grown sons, mother and his brother’s family.

“We will broaden our scope with an additional focus on returning power to the people in the states — from a federal government grown out-of-control,” Walker wrote. “That is the best way to Drain the Swamp on a permanent basis.”

While advocating for “draining the swamp,” Walker said he also plans to help re-elect Trump and help with candidates and causes in Wisconsin over the next two years. Walker said during his re-election campaign that he wouldn’t run for president again. In his email message, he doesn’t rule out future runs for office, saying only “We will see where God leads us in the future.”