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Sniffing for bombs, friendships

September 19, 2012

MSU police Sgt. Dan Munford discusses the training tactics he uses with his K-9 dog, Zilla.

Photo by Rebecca Ryan | The State News

When MSU police Sgt. Dan Munford opened the door to his K-9 partner’s crate, Zilla, his black German Shepherd, came to life.

“Zilla is like a tornado going through a small town — she’s got a whole lot of energy,” Munford said of his K-9 partner, with whom he’s only been working for about two months.

Zilla might have the playfulness of a puppy, but she was on a mission: looking for bombs on university property — jars of TNT, C-4 and dynamite.

Six pairs of officers and dogs make up the MSU Police K-9 Unit. On Wednesday, they held an eight-hour training session, which took place at various locations across campus including an old Engineering Research Complex on Hulett Road.

Although Zilla is new, she’s catching on quickly. She and Munford had a bonding moment Monday when they brought down their first assailant together — a man involved in a domestic assault and malicious destruction of property in Bath Township.

“That’s the most rewarding thing in the world; when your dog leads you to somebody — you kind of ‘erggh,’” Munford said, growling jokingly and describing the pride he feels when his dog catches an assailant. “There’s no better feeling. I tell people this is one of the most rewarding and frustrating things you’ll do in your life.”

His dog might be young — she will turn two years old soon — but Munford is far from new to the K-9 unit world. Zilla is his third dog with the program, and he has been a member of the MSU Police K-9 Unit for about 15 years.

The session is one of two the pair participates in each month, where officers train the dogs by conducting article searches, aggression work, explosive searches and indoor narcotics work.
The training session also is a chance for all of the officers to be together and work on perfecting specific skills the dogs might be struggling with.

“What’s neat about the K-9 Unit and all K-9 units in general is there is a kind of different philosophy where everybody just wants to make their dog as good as they can make their dog,” said MSU police Officer Adam Atkinson, who also attended Wednesday’s training.

Like any new couple, Munford said it’s just a matter of time until he gets used to the quirks that make Zilla, Zilla.

“It is hard going from my last dog (who) was a little bit older and had slowed down, into this tornado dog that I have now that goes a million miles an hour all the time,” Munford said. “I have to get my mindset back that I’m with a younger dog again and it is headache time for a little bit.”

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