POMONA - Baco, the newest member of the Police Department's canine unit, is in the fourth week of training and getting ready to begin patrol duties with his handler.

The 3 1/2-year-old Belgian Malinois has shown he's energetic, alert, brave and sociable with his handler, Officer Theo Joseph.

"He's just shown he's going to be a very good patrol dog," Joseph said.

Baco replaces Buddy, another Belgian Malinois, who was euthanized early this year after being diagnosed with cancer.

Buddy's death caught everyone by surprise, said Sgt. Mike Ellis, who oversees the Police Department's canine program.

Because the dog's death came suddenly, no one was able to plan for a replacement, Ellis said.

The department's canines are purchased with donations from local business clubs and fraternal organizations.

One such group is the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, which holds weekly taco nights to raise money to purchase dogs for the Police Department.

However, none of the organizations was prepared to purchase a dog, nor was the Police Department, which has little money to spare due to budget reductions, Ellis said.

With the need for a full canine-handler contingent, the Police Department approached Canidae All Pet Food Products and explained the situation.

Canidae representatives listened and assisted by providing the $10,300 needed to purchase a new dog, Ellis said.

"This is the first dog we've purchased," said Robert Bemis, sales manager for Canidae, though it's not the first time the firm has worked with law enforcement.

The company supports some law enforcement agencies by providing food for their canine programs, Bemis said.

The company's aid came at a critical time, but now the Police Department must prepare for the forthcoming retirement of another dog, Rocky.

Rocky will retire in about three months after 11 years of service, Ellis said.

People interested in contributing toward the purchase of Rocky's replacement can attend the Eagles' taco nights, which begin at 6 p.m. Mondays at the Eagles Lodge, 954 W. Mission Blvd.

Checks can also be made out to the "Eagles K9 Fund" and mailed in care of Sgt. Mike Ellis to the Pomona Police Department, 490 W. Mission Blvd., Pomona, CA 91766. Donations will be forwarded to the Eagles.

Joseph said canines are a valuable resource to officers, helping in the search for suspects, evidence and weapons.

Once Joseph and Baco complete their training together they'll work in patrol for about a year. Then Baco will begin training in another field of police canine work such as narcotics searches, an area Buddy was trained in, Joseph said.

The area in which Baco and Joseph will train will depend on factors that include the officer's preferences and the Police Department's needs, he said.

In the meantime Joseph is looking forward to working with Baco.

"I'm hoping it'll be for a long while," he said.