Munch was finishing up the final shift of his law enforcement career when a call for help crackled over the cruiser radio. A pickup truck that had been reported stolen was stopped on a Sterling street, the dispatcher said, and the driver had jumped out, run into a nearby field and disappeared.

So Munch, an 8-year-old German shepherd with a fondness for ice cream, put off retirement just a little longer and joined the chase. He soon led his partner, Loudoun Sheriff's Deputy Tod Thompson, to the deck of a nearby house.

At first, Thompson saw nothing unusual when he shone his flashlight under the deck, but Munch didn't back down. Then Thompson spotted a man deep in the shadows.

With his final assignment successfully completed, Munch ended his seven-year career Tuesday night with the Loudoun Sheriff's Office. Now he will settle in with Thompson and his wife and two young children at their Winchester area home for some well-deserved relaxation and a life as a full-time pet.

"He'll just basically stay at home and enjoy life and ice cream and whatever treats we can give him," Thompson said. "He's part of the family. We have a bond that's hard to put into words."

Munch, short for Munchkin, was among four German shepherds that Loudoun deputies use to help track down fleeing criminals or missing people and to sniff out hidden illegal drugs. In addition to the three remaining shepherds -- Dino, Ringo and Sam -- the department has a bloodhound named Belle, said Loudoun Sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell.

Munch, who was born in Czechoslovakia in November 1995, was bought by a dog trainer in Pennsylvania and joined the department in the fall of 1997 and immediately partnered with Thompson. During their time together, the pair busted countless drug users, and, a few years back, they tracked down a man who had fled from the county's work release program.

Thompson and Munch also visited local nursing homes and Boy Scout and Girl Scout meetings. The pair were a hit at school drug prevention programs and a Sheriff's Office McGruff safety camp.

"He's very friendly, very sociable, and he loves people," Thompson said.

Thompson, who has been a Loudoun deputy for 20 years, said Munch was a great partner, though recently he had slowed down a bit. "Some things he just was not as interested in anymore, and we need a dog that's on his A game every day," he said.

On Thursday, Thompson went to a Pennsylvania company that sells police dogs to search for a new partner, a dog that will become Munch's roommate.

It will be tough when the new dog goes off to work and Munch has to stay behind, Thompson said. But he said he is sure his longtime partner will be happy.

"We'll try to make up for it in other ways," Thompson said. "He'll get to go in the house and play when the other one doesn't."

Munch and his partner, Loudoun Sheriff's Deputy Tod Thompson, worked together for seven years.