Sergeant David Nanz wakes up every Monday through Friday and arrives at work at 6:30 a.m. with his trusty partner, Sammi.
Sammy Nanza is a designated K-9 dog. He is a German Shorthaired Pointer who accompanies his handler on daily calls around town. Together, Sammy and Nanz handle the call, field officers, check campus mailrooms, and answer routine calls.
The university has two K-9 units on campus that work to keep the community safe by inspecting packages in the university’s mailrooms, monitoring sporting events and assisting with calls.
Nanz described the importance of having these K-9 dogs around to sniff out suspicious packages.
“Their purpose is for safety reasons,” Nanz said. “Before 9/11, if there was an unattended bag around … it was good to open that bag and look at it and check it. Now, if there’s an unattended bag in the common area or anywhere on campus, the K-9 goes and checks it first.”
Officer Corey Rodgers is the unit’s patrol officer working the afternoon K-9 unit shift with his dog Harley, a 2-year-old labrador and German shorthair pointer mix. He started working with the unit last February.
Rodgers said K-9 units play an important role in maintaining campus safety.
“Basically, they can detect things that us humans can’t,” Rodgers said.
Harley was brought to the United States from Serbia by Tri-State Canine Services in Youngstown, Ohio when she was just 18 months old. Tri-State trains and handles K-9 dogs before giving them to law enforcement and private security agencies.
David Blosser, owner and operator of Tri-State Canine Services, said that after he finds the foreign sellers’ dogs, he begins a training process that teaches the dogs to detect scent, track and obey.
According to Blosser, normal exercise is “similar to positive motivation through play and bonding toys[s] with our duty.”
“Each dog is different and at different levels, so we have to evaluate each dog to determine how to start printing them,” Blosser said.
According to Blosser, dogs trained in patrol and protection can take lessons anywhere from three to eight weeks, depending on age and discipline.
“Dogs dictate development,” Blosser said. “It takes more time than a young minded, immature, strong adult dog.”
After completing training, these dogs are sent to a number of locations across the country, including universities in New Mexico and police departments in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Other dogs began serving in the FBI and US Secret Service Border Patrol. Tri-State even supplied thirty K-9s to its largest agency in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
As a K-9 dog at Tri-State, Harley learned to detect certain scents that she would encounter on a daily basis. Rodgers said he worked with Harley for a four-week training period.
“Some of the things I look for include how it reacts when it detects a particular scent and what it does when it does,” Rodgers said. “We worked and worked until he was consistent.”
Nanz said Sammy was trained at Shallow Creek Kennels, a police school in Mercer County that trains and sells dogs to law enforcement agencies.
“The dog usually arrives somewhere three to four weeks ago,” Nanz said, “Then I get another two weeks because I’m already an experienced handler when I get Sammy.”
Nanz said her favorite part of her day with Sammy is getting to practice together every Tuesday. During practice, Sammy gets a chance to play with a prize chew toy.
“For him, it’s a game because when he finds something and says it right, that’s the only time he gets that toy, and he’s very energetic and happy for that toy,” Nanz said. “So it brings a lot of joy because I know it’s in place.”
Rodgers said he appreciates the close relationship he developed with Harley during their time together.
“My favorite part is the bond we have,” Officer Rodgers said. “It’s inexplicable.”
Nanz also said students are allowed to pet the dogs as long as they are not actively searching or on call.
“All of our dogs are friendly because they’re sporting breeds,” Nanz said. “We’ve had the public come up to us and say, ‘Hey, do you mind petting your dog?’ we enjoy saying it.”
Rodgers said Harley loved bringing smiles to students on campus and even encouraged the public to interact with the dogs.
“During Harley’s short tenure, she brought many smiles to the faces of the students she protected on a regular basis,” Rodgers said. “If you ever see us walking around, stop by and say hi, we always have time to talk.”