‘It’s the best partner that I could ever ask for’: K-9 officers talk about their dogs


Alyssa Carnevali | Staff Photographer

Sergeant David Nanz and his assigned K-9 dog, Sammy.

By Madison Dean, Staff Writer

Every Monday through Friday, Sergeant David Nanz wakes up and arrives to work by 6:30 a.m. with his trusted partner Sammy.

Sammy is Nanz’s assigned K-9 dog. He is a German shorthaired pointer that accompanies his handler on daily calls around the city. Together Sammy and Nanz handle the roll call, get officers out on the street, check campus mailrooms and answer normal routine calls. 

The University has two K-9 units on campus that work to keep the community safe by checking packages in university mailrooms, monitoring sporting events and assisting with calls. 

Nanz described the importance of having these K-9 dogs around to sniff for suspicious packages. 

“Their purpose is for safety reasons,” Nanz said. “Prior to 9/11, if there was an unattended bag laying around … it was okay to open that bag and look through it and check it out. Now, if there’s an unattended bag in the commons area or anywhere on campus, the K-9 goes and checks it first.” 

Officer Corey Rodgers is the patrol officer of the unit who works the afternoon K-9 unit shift with his dog Harley, a 2-year-old labrador and German shorthaired pointer mix. She started working with the unit last February. 

Rodgers said K-9 units play a vital role in maintaining campus safety.

“Essentially, they can detect things that we as humans cannot,” Rodgers said. 

Sammy, a K-9 dog. (Alyssa Carnevali | Staff Photographer)

When Harley was just 18 months old, she was brought to the U.S. from Serbia by Tri-State Canine Services in Youngstown, Ohio. Tri-State trains and handles K-9 dogs before supplying them to law enforcement and private security agencies. 

David Blosser, owner and operator of Tri-State Canine Services, said after locating dogs from overseas vendors, they begin the training process that teaches the canines odor detection, tracking and obedience. 

According to Blosser, a normal training session looks like “positive motivation through play and associating toy[s] with our task.” 

”Each dog is different and at different levels, so we have to evaluate each dog to determine how we should start imprinting them,” Blosser said.

Depending on age and discipline, dogs trained in patrol and protection can take classes anywhere from three to eight weeks long, according to Blosser. 

“Dogs dictate the progression,” Blosser said. “Young minded, immature takes more time compared to a strong mature dog.” 

After completing training, these dogs are sent to a number of locations across the country, such as universities in New Mexico and police departments across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Other dogs begin service with the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service Border Patrol. Tri-State has even supplied thirty K-9s to its largest agency in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

At Tri-State, Harley learned to detect certain odors she would encounter daily as a K-9 dog. Rodgers said he worked alongside Harley for a four-week training period. 

“Some of the things I look for include how she reacts when she has detected a certain odor, and what she does when she locates an odor,” Rodgers said. “We worked and worked until she became consistent.” 

Nanz said Sammy was trained at Shallow Creek Kennels in Mercer County, a police school that trains and sells dogs to law enforcement. 

“The dog usually gets anywhere between three to four weeks prior,” Nanz said, “And then I get another two weeks since I’m already an experienced handler when I got Sammy.” 

Nanz said his favorite part of the day with Sammy is when they train together every other Tuesday. During training, Sammy gets a chance to play with his reward chew toy. 

“To him, it’s a game because when he finds something and he’s correct, that’s the only time he gets that toy, and he is so energetic and happy for that toy,” Nanz said. “So that brings a lot of joy because I know he’s spot on.” 

Rodgers said he appreciates the close relationship he has built with Harley throughout their time working together. 

“My favorite part is the bond that is created between us,” Officer Rodgers said. “It is unexplainable.” 

Nanz also said as long as the dogs aren’t actively searching or on call, students are allowed to pet them. 

“Our dogs are all friendly because they’re sporting breeds,” Nanz said. “We enjoy the public coming up to us and saying, ‘Hey, do you mind if I pet your dog?’” 

Rodgers said Harley likes to bring smiles to students on campus, and he even encourages the public to interact with the dogs. 

“In Harley’s short tenure, she has brought plenty of smiles to the faces of students she protects on a regular basis,” Rodgers said. “If there’s ever a time that you see us out walking around, stop and say hello, we always have time to talk.”