Patrolling on four paws
Most of the time, Travis Sundvall and his dog, Bosco, have a typical boy-and-his-dog relationship. Sundvall feeds his dog and cleans up after him. They go for walks, and they play outside.
And then, they go to work.
"When we go to work, he knows," Sundvall said. "When he sees me putting on my uniform, he understands it's time to go to work."
A lively 1 1/2-year-old German Shepard from Slovakia, Bosco is Farmington's first K9 officer. He's been on patrol with Sundvall since graduating from the St. Paul Canine Training Facility May 27.
Most of the time while he's on duty, Bosco hangs out in the back of the K9 squad Sundvall drives. The car has been specially equipped to accommodate Bosco, with plenty of room to roam around, and grates on the windows so he can get some fresh air but not be disturbed by people trying to stick their hands in and pet him.
When he's working, he's working.
Like every officer, Bosco has his own field of expertise - namely, his sniffer. He uses his keen sense of smell for tracking and doing building searches. In October, he'll learn a little more when he and Sundvall begin narcotics detection school.
The duo primarily works evening shifts, mostly mid-week through the weekend. They do a lot of patrolling, and respond to calls when necessary. Though Bosco's primary job is to use his nose for tracking purposes, he's also been taught to aid in enforcement.
That means he's been to quite a few calls already. They've gone to domestic calls and fights. And when two guys with guns were lurking around Dairy Queen a couple of weeks ago, they put up no resistance to police once Bosco got to the scene.
"They did not appreciate the dog being there," Sundvall said. "They were definitely aware of the canine aspect, and that's the whole point."
Bosco and Sundvall also train monthly with a south metro K9 group. They work on some of the skills they learned in St. Paul, and a few more things every month.
They've made a few trips to other communities, too. Some areas still do not have K9 units, and in other cases, they've been called on to assist in tracking with other K9 teams.
Bosco still hasn't developed his "voice," meaning he doesn't really bark much. That's fine by Sundvall, because barking means dogs are using extra energy, and Sundvall would prefer that Bosco save his energy for the bad guys.
"I'm trying to keep him quiet and only do it when he's asked to," Sundvall said.
The other part of Bosco's job is to watch his partner's back. Anytime Sundvall makes a stop, Bosco watches from inside the squad. If Sundvall gets into trouble, one push of a button on his belt releases the squad door and allows Bosco to come to his partner's aid.
Part of the family
There are a lot of things about Bosco that make him like every other dog in every other home. He enjoys playing and walks. He knows commands (although some of the commands he responds to at work are a bit more aggressive in nature), and he tries to please his owner in hopes of getting to his Kong.
But Bosco knows his family, too. Like any other dog, he's identified the people who a part of Sundvall's life, and he behaves well around them. Chances are, if the situation would arise, Bosco would protect his family members, too.
"It's like having a family pet who has special skills," Sundvall said.
Since he's still a young dog, Bosco is still pretty thin in the midsection, but that's not for lack of feeding. Sundvall has his partner on a very specific high protein, high fat diet when they're off duty. Bosco gets water while they're on duty, but Sundvall doesn't feed him then because it could make him sluggish.
Bosco is also cared for at Akin Hills Pet Hospital.
Sundvall plans to bring Bosco out to meet the folks in Farmington during the Aug. 3 National Night Out event. It will be one of Bosco's first public appearances in the community, and Sundvall welcomes requests to do demonstrations with his partner.
"He's still maturing," Sundvall said. "He's doing everything I've asked him to do. I couldn't ask for a better partner."
However, Sundvall warns the public against approaching Bosco without Sundvall's knowledge and permission. A canine's job is to protect the handler, and they may not recognize the individual as a friend.