There’s a new University Police officer who works in explosive detection and searches for criminal suspects and missing persons. He even has to go up against some nasty criminals – and he does it all for a rubber ball.

Daran, a 20-month-old Belgian Malinois, joined University Police on April 4, replacing the retiring dog ,Catto.

Catto retired at the age of six after working for four and a half years with University Police. He retired because of a degenerative spine disease, caused by excessive pressure on the joints.

Police had to consider several factors when searching for Catto’s replacement.

“We look for how much ‘hunt’ does the dog have,” said Officer Bryan Thompson, the K9 handler for University Police. “How much is he willing to go out and find things?”

Thompson said those qualities are important for explosive detection and criminal apprehension.

“When we’re hunting for suspects, the dog has to find a possible suspect hiding in a house,” Thompson said.

Another key ingredient to a successful K9 cop: ball drive. Thompson rewards his partner with a rubber ball.

“When he finds what he needs to find, he gets that ball,” Thompson said. “It’s his paycheck.”

The next component is having fight. The dog might have to engage the criminal before the handler and other officers can arrest the suspect.

“Police dogs have a stigma of being vicious dogs. They’re not. They’re just trained,” Thompson said. “One of the major things is to protect their handler.”

The final aspect of the K9 is they need to be social.

“They have to know when to turn it on and off. It goes into control,” he said.

Daran came to the University Police from Storm Dog K9 Training in Delaware, Ohio. Michael Pennington is the trainer there and is an Ohio State alumnus. Daran was originally born in Holland before coming into Pennington’s care.

“This is him giving back to OSU,” Thompson said. “This project meant a lot to him.”

Daran and Thompson aren’t just work partners – they go home together.

“He’s good with my kid and my wife,” he said. “We’re on call 24-7.”

Chris Alexis can be reached at