University Police’s newest officer barks, slobbers and weighs 55 pounds, but criminals beware: Andor can smell trouble a mile away.
Within two weeks, police will add Andor, an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois dog and a new Dodge Magnum patrol car.
The first explosives-detecting dog was a German Shepherd named Catto. Officer Bryan Thompson’s current dog is a Belgian Malinois, named Duron, who is more agile and speedy than Catto, Thompson said. Duron has worked well and police hope Andor, a Dutch Shepherd, will do the same.
The new handler, Officer Tim Cooper, will work with Andor.
“He’s just like the other officers on the shift except he has additional duties – he has a dog with him,” said Richard Morman, Deputy Chief of Police. “And then the dog is a general patrol dog too; not only does he do explosives but he does other patrol work like building and area searches.”
The Department of Athletics contributed $50,000 to the Department of Public Safety to purchase the explosives-detecting dog and the Dodge Magnum, which is specially equipped for the dog and handler. Police decided to switch to the Magnum because of the extra space needed and for the safety of the dog, said Thompson. He is currently the only member of the K9 Unit and has been a handler for nearly six years.
“There’s a lot of equipment we have to keep in our vehicles and we just didn’t have enough storage space,” Thompson said. “A lot of departments are now going to SUV’s, (Chevy) Tahoes and (Ford) Explorers; we decided not to go to that based on the jumping in and out of the car. A lot of the impact injuries that dogs sustain are ironically getting in and out of the vehicle, so we kept our vehicles a little lower but still having the space that an SUV would give us.”
The Magnum has a flat platform to prevent the dog from sliding and is made out of aluminum to stay cooler in the summer. It has tinted rear windows to prevent people from peering in and disturbing the dog.
Catto, the first OSU police dog, joined the force in 2004 and since the Sept. 11 attacks, OSU police felt the need to add another explosives-detecting dog. Because of a partnership with the Department of Athletics, it was able to achieve the goal, Thompson said. Although both dogs will be used at Ohio Stadium during football games and other athletic events, it is helpful to the whole university.
“It’s beneficial to athletics, especially during our athletic events, when use of a second bomb dog is very helpful. At any of our events, not just athletics but things like political events, having a second dog would be very useful for all of us,” said Ben Jay, senior associate Athletics Director for Finance and Operations. In today’s current heightened-alert climate, an extra dog helps a lot, Jay said.
Thompson said dogs have been used at the Arnold Classic, Red, White and Boom and with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on their recent visits to Columbus. During football season, police work with other agencies and use eight dogs to help. It was there they saw the growing need for another dog.
“We only have one of our own, (and) we thought, ‘Gosh it’d be nice to have a second dog’ and sometimes all those dogs are not available, so we just saw a need for another dog,” Morman said. “And the Athletic Department agreed with us.”
Although the dog and handler’s main focus is on campus, they are used in other situations in the area. “All the bomb dogs pretty much work under an umbrella of we’ll help whoever. If your agency needs help, we’ll go there and we’ll help you out,” Thompson said. “Other agencies and administrations have been great in letting us help people out; we need their help and they need our help as well. So we have a pretty busy workload.”
Police received Andor from local company Storm Dog Training, which is run by a former Franklin County deputy and K9 handler, Thompson said. Although the dog is trained to track people in buildings and cars, recovering evidence and for use in normal patrol situations, detecting explosives is the primary purpose.
“Our primary thing here at the university is explosives. That’s what the dogs are for,” Thompson said. “The (public relations) and the explosives are the main focal points of the dog. The patrol aspect is an added bonus.”
Tom Knox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.