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A dogs life at the police station

Farmington police officer Travis Sundvall will spend two weeks bonding with Bosco, the department's new dog, before beginning training. If training does not go well the dog could be sent back.

The Farmington Police Department got a new member last week. He's young, trim and very energetic. And, he has four legs.

A German Shepard, Boscoe is the newest member of the FPD. His handler and partner, officer Travis Sundvall, picked up Boscoe from the St. Paul Canine Training Facility Feb. 22.

Sundvall and Boscoe aren't ready to hit the streets of Farmington just yet. They'll start a 12-week training at the St. Paul Canine site on Monday. While Sundvall isn't sure what they'll learn in St. Paul, he knows that he and Boscoe will go through all phases of the training together.

In these two weeks prior to the training, their time together is simple -- they're just getting to know each other.

Because Boscoe was bred specifically to become a police dog, he has learned no commands. It makes simple things like getting him to sit or stay a little tricky, but Sundvall says that's part of the process.

"Most of what we do now is just play, spend time together. A lot of walking and just socializing with each other," Sundvall said.

Boscoe was bred overseas, but Sundvall is not sure where. He'll get the dog's passport -- yes, a passport -- and paperwork once they start training next week. In the meantime, Sundvall talked a little about his new partner and what the canine unit will mean for Farmington.

How have you spent your first few days with him?

Cautiously playing, I guess. The dog doesn't know English, he doesn't know any commands, he's not trained for anything yet. You have to be careful with him, people around him, and then develop a relationship and start bonding with him. That's what's important right now. Getting him to trust you.

Do you know what that training will include?

Basically, it's apprehension. Obedience, apprehension, tracking, agility and searching, I think. I don't know what the specific terms are for that yet, but basically, that's it.... They (St. Paul Canine) don't talk a lot about their training. They talk about their program as a whole. They have 18 dogs for their unit.

(At this point, Bosco discovers the recorder and begins to sniff at it.)

See what I mean? He's just a pup. Just a young guy. Doesn't know anything yet.

So when he completes his training, what is he going to be used to do for Farmington?

He'll be certified basically for those same things. Searching...

(Boscoe knocks the recorder off the table, and the interview is put on hold for a moment)

Okay, continue.

Criminal apprehension. We like to joke around, basically, he'll be certified to catch bad guys, which involves biting, searching, being able to search for or track people. A lot of it's that. Then there's a dope portion, where he would be able to track for that, but that isn't part of this school. It's just the agility, the obedience. The tracking and apprehension. Suspect apprehension. Basically, if there's somebody who broke into a building or something, he'd be able to search for that person. If we have a missing child or a vulnerable adult that's lost out in the woods or anywhere like that, he would go out and find those people. If we have a robbery or a burglary ... and the person flees the area on foot, he would look for them and those types of things. So that is what he would do. There's a very specific outline. The part that stinks about not having all the information right now is that orientation was, "this is what you're going to do, this is what's going to happen at this point," but it wasn't very specific. Everything right now is just kind of overwhelming, especially once you get the dog. Everything changes, you know. Your lifestyle changes at home. This is like having another person at home that you have to take care of, but this one you have to be a little bit more cognizant of. He's a big part of a handlers' life now. You work with him every day, and you're home with him every day.

So then, the question becomes, are you a dog person?

Absolutely. Absolutely. I can't think of anything else I would rather do in this profession than this. This has been a goal of mine in my tenure here, I guess. I'm close to starting my 11th year here. I was a handler before, but more for a dope dog. That's still a lot of work, and I'm not trying to belittle to dope portion of it, but there's a lot more to this. This is the more exciting aspect of canine, having the dog that does the searches and track for people and protects you. Protects officers and protects the public.

You mentioned that you don't have your squad quite ready for all of this yet. What sort of equipment are you going to have?

The car now is specifically designed to house the dog. The back seat that normally held prisoners is now a kennel for the dog. Obviously, the equipment is important. There's a temperature monitor, so if the car gets too hot, it will alert me and let me know it's too hot and to roll down the windows or honk the horn and make the sirens go off. That's actually what was (installed) today. There's a thing called a bail out system that's a remote door opener, so if I'm on a traffic stop and I start fighting with somebody or for some reason I need access to the dog immediately and I can't get to my car, I can simply just push a button and the door opens.


The only thing that's left to do to the car is get the decals put on it so it will be very visible. Everybody will know that there's a dog in the car.

The police department got a matching grant through St. Paul?

Yeah. The St. Paul canine foundation is designed to help agencies start their first program. They give a portion that has to be matched, so they pay for a portion of the dog and the school, and then the city needs to match a certain amount, which is $4,000. There's still some costs that need to be helped with -- kennels need to be set up and stuff like that -- but we're still receiving some donations and it's helping. We've gotten a lot of support. We got exactly what we wanted. We got exactly what we needed. Everybody came through for us. That's very much appreciated. We definitely got the help we asked for and that's a good thing. We definitely have something to show for it.

He'll be a completely different dog after 12 weeks. I'll be a completely different person after 12 weeks. You go through every bit of it together. We're both going to be tired, we're both going to have fun. We're both going to be challenged. It's something that we both do together.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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