Police officer timing his retirement with his canine partner

If you’re jogging on North Campus on a Saturday, don’t be surprised if you’re accosted by a man and his dog.

It could be Joseph Dunny and Columbo, half of the university’s two K-9 patrol officer units within the Public Safety and Security Division, and Dunny is just looking for your help in training the new department officer.

“A lot of times I see someone running around North Campus on Saturdays and asking, ‘Can you take that toy tug and keep running and drop it after a few hundred yards and I’ll take the dog out and follow it? ‘” Dunny said.

The request is rarely denied, and that’s by design.

Officer Joseph Dunny and his former K-9 partner, Tank, worked together for eight years before Tank retired last fall. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Dunny)

Dunny, who has worked with DPSS since 1998 and with the K-9 unit since 2010, takes great pride in the sociability of the animals he works with and their effectiveness in their important roles.

Columbo and Riggs — like Tank and Nike before them — come from a Belgian Malinois breeder in Kentucky who keeps the dogs for a year before handing them over to DPSS for service. During this first year, the dogs went out in public to socialize them while they also worked through the puppy months before getting serious about tracking, patrolling and searching for explosives.

“What we’ve produced is a friendly police dog that can be petted and do other things. If you start the other things first, they become suspicious of people and don’t want to be petted,” Dunny said. “We’ve had them at all kinds of events, and they’ve done more for community outreach than anything we have in the department.”

Dunny has been around dogs since childhood and has been involved in public service for most of his career. But he says being a dog lover is not a prerequisite for working in the K-9 unit. In fact, it is a prejudice.

“You can’t be one of those people who dresses up their pet,” he said. “It’s not a pet, it’s a tool. It’s very serious work when you work with a dog, but it’s the most rewarding job in law enforcement, in my opinion. opinion.

Dunny served in both his hometown Manchester Fire Department and the Pittsfield Township Fire Department after completing law enforcement courses at Washtenaw Community College. He also worked for Huron Valley Ambulance to help hone his medical skills as an emergency medical technician and paramedic.

Officer Joseph Dunny and his former K-9 partner, Tank, pose outside Michigan Stadium, where the duo patrolled every home football game.  (Photo courtesy of Joseph Dunny)
Officer Joseph Dunny and his former K-9 partner, Tank, pose outside Michigan Stadium, where the duo patrolled every home football game. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Dunny)

He came to UM in 1998 and worked in housing security until he went through the police academy to become a certified police officer in the mid-2000s. In 2010, he joined the K-unit 9, taking over Taser from a former manager until his retirement in 2014.

“That’s when Tank came along,” he said. “In 2021, he retired in the fall. It was hard. It’s a dog that I took because I didn’t know anything.

Training is an arduous process, but Tank has proven to be a quick learner and an ideal partner.

Dunny said K-9 dogs via DPSS are not narcotic dogs, which only need to distinguish between three scents. They are explosive detection dogs, which require them to learn 21 different smells, and more. They can also track criminals, track and find missing persons, and are trained in finding items of evidence.

“If you take a quarterback and throw it in the middle of Michigan Stadium, the dog will find it,” Dunny said. “They are amazing animals.”

Tank turned out to be outstanding. He was first in explosives detection in United States Police Canine Association Region 19, which encompasses Michigan, northern Ohio and Canada. Dunny said he had a whole section of his house filled with trophies that Tank had won over the years.

Most of them have come in recent years, as Dunny said Tank went from “going 100 miles an hour” on tracking to slowing down and “finding people left and right.” Dunny said having the ability to train Tank from the start was essential for both parties.

“The bonding experience when you train a dog yourself becomes much better, along with your ability to read your dog’s behavior,” he said. “Your capacity is much greater because you have seen them learn from nothing into what they become.”

Tank’s retirement to Dunny’s household was a difficult transition at first, with Dunny leaving to work with Columbo and Tank not looking forward to staying. It’s also by design to a degree, since dogs are trained to be excited at work and view home as “boring.”

“For eight years Tank went to work with me every day,” Dunny said. “(Columbo’s first day), Tank was waiting by the door, like, ‘Why is this guy coming with you?’ But the new dog overtakes where Tank was.

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Columbo and Tank are two of eight dogs to have served the K-9 unit at DPSS since its launch in 2002. Riggs is currently serving with Officer Susan Upton as his dog handler.

When Tank retired, he weighed around 55 pounds; at just one and a half years old, Columbo tips the scales at 80 pounds.

“He’s tall and athletic,” Dunny said. “They are very athletic dogs. I always say that if a normal dog is a high school linebacker and a professional linebacker is a German Shepherd, our dogs are Lawrence Taylor.

Columbo is Dunny’s third dog with DPSS, and when Columbo retires, Dunny plans to retire as well. He can’t wait to take his wife, who is a flight nurse for Survival Flight, two teenagers and a money lab named Hope – along with Tank and Columbo – on a camping trip.

“I hate to retire, but you start to age and it starts to wear on your body,” he said. “It’s not easy to work a dog all the time. When they’re connected to you on a line and you’re making a track and they’re going 15-20 mph, they pull you and you have no choice but to go.

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