Lottery winners finance St. Paul police K-9 training

When Joe and Rhonda Meath won a Hot Lotto ticket worth $11.7 million last September, Rhonda, a regional German Shepherd trainer, said she'd like to buy a new trick for her dogs and donate a K-9 to a local police department. TAP TO VIEW PHOTOS

On Thursday, she saw that dream come to fruition after donating enough money to cover the purchase and a full training regimen for a St. Paul Police Department K-9. They met Officer Falco for the first time, watched him graduate training school, and the couple and Falco's new partner couldn't be more proud.

The force says sixteen-month-old Falco is a very, very good dog. His partner, 4-year patrolman Brian Ficcadenti is now ready to get to work after the pair graduated from the department's 12-week training course.

"It's been a whirlwind of emotions, a real roller coaster watching the dog work. He needs the training just as much as I need to train. It's amazing," he said.

Police K-9s do invaluable work, and they're not cheap. Each dog costs $8,500 to purchase and another $4,000 for the full training certification. Without donations, they can be awfully expensive for budget-strapped law enforcement agencies.

That's where Rhonda Meath came in, of course. She both shows and trains German Shepherds, and thanks to that $14,000 donation, Officer Ficcadenti now can hit the streets of St. Paul with Falco.

"It's absolutely phenomenal. Without that support, we wouldn't have this today. Obviously means the world to us. Can't thank them enough," he said.

Falco is St. Paul's 19th trained K-9 officer. The Meaths now live in Washington County and said they'll soon be donating some money to the sheriff's office there to help them get their own K-9.