MTSU’s Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center admitted fitness and sport enthusiasts of a furrier, four-legged variety to campus earlier this month when the university hosted the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association National Conference.
“When we learned it was Murfreesboro’s turn to host, we wanted MTSU to be a big part of that,” said MTSU Police Capt. Jeff Martinez. “We wanted to showcase how our K-9 program is growing; we wanted to showcase our police department and our abilities and knowledge of policing; and we wanted to showcase the university and the great facilities we have.”
The association, more commonly known as the NNDDA, is a professional nonprofit dedicated to the utilization and proficiency of police service, utility or scent detection dogs for the benefit of law enforcement, according to its website.
The NNDDA offers both training seminars and the annual conference to give K-9 handlers the opportunity to learn and become better officers as well as to share and collaborate with each other.
About 70 K-9 handlers and their fetching partners came to campus May 29-June 2 for training and “fur-riendly” competition. The week culminated in the dog-and-handler pairs competing in a narcotics-identifying course in the Rec Center’s indoor soccer arena.
Sgt. Zach Brooker, MTSU Police’s sole K-9 handler, got to complete the course for fun with his four-year partner, MTSU K-9 Officer Bobby.
“They put out luggage, furniture and all kinds of things all over the arena, and the dog and the handler have three minutes to come in and find as many hidden narcotics as possible,” Brooker said. “It’s blind. You don’t know where they are, and you don’t know how many there are when you do the search. … It’s a very controlled environment (with) judges and trainers.”
Brooker said Bobby enjoyed the week full of training.
“We train typically four hours a week minimum,” Brooker said of the German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix. “But this week, he’s been getting to do a lot of work every single day just like this, which is what he enjoys doing, so it’s just been a really fun week.”
Brooker also helped Martinez and other police staff shoulder the responsibilities of hosting.
“It went really well,” Martinez said about the week. “Our role (involved) mostly logistics — providing places for the K-9s to train, finding different buildings that wouldn’t impact the students, faculty and staff on their day-to-day operations. … MTSU has a beautiful campus with numerous viable locations, which make this type of training feasible. It was a pleasure to work with the MTSU faculty, staff and administration who were gracious enough to allow for this type of training on campus.”
Martinez and Brooker said they hope to expand MTSU’s K-9 program in the future.
“Having more than one K-9 helps promote a safe campus, it helps … our overall mission of providing a safe environment for people to come work and learn,” Martinez said. “Those K-9s are wonderful tools, and if you get the right handler with them, the sky is limit for our department.”
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)