Oh, Odin: Farmington PD welcomes new K-9


Farmington Police Department K-9 officer Gary Tipton looked to the mythical world when he named the department's second police dog.

Tipton and his family selected the superhero name "Odin" after the comic book character father of Thor, known as the peace-loving, wise hero who fought to bring peace and justice.

Tipton believes the four-footed Odin will be highly trained to bring greater public safety to Farmington and surrounding communities.

A month ago, Odin traveled from the Netherlands with a stamped passport to the United States. This medium-sized shepherd dog is a Belgian Malinois who just celebrated his first birthday. Odin is still a playful puppy whose body has not quite grown into his tall, lanky legs, almost like a young teenager, Tipton said.

Odin follows in the paw prints of Bosco, acquired in 2010 as the first police dog handled by officer Travis Sundvall. Bosco became beloved in the community for his service to support officers and protect public safety. He educated youth at school safety camps and mingled with the public at Farmington Expo and during National Night Out visits to local neighborhood block parties.

When the canine officer position opened, Tipton contemplated becoming the new handler.

"I decided to go for it and change things up a little bit," Tipton said. As a true dog lover, Tipton said he is excited about the challenge.

Upton, 42, brings nearly 12 years of experience as a patrol officer here since July 2005. Tipton has worked in law enforcement leadership capacities, including a firearms instructor and field training officer.

Family of fur

Odin has been getting used to living with the Tipton family and sleeps in the basement at night and stays in a kennel inside the garage during the day to build up his winter fur coat.

Tipton said since his wife, Kristie, works at a veterinary clinic, it did not take a lot of convincing for the veterinary technician to be excited about bringing Odin into the family that already includes two dogs and a cat.

"Her clinic works with the airport canines and many other department canines," Tipton said. His wife's animal knowledge came in handy in recent weeks when Odin got sick and recovered quickly.

"We have been slowly introducing him to family," Tipton said. His two children, 10 and 14 years old, are also very excited to welcome another dog, especially a police dog with a cool mythical name like Odin.

Priceless investment

Farmington Police Administrative Sgt. Jim Constantineau said employing a police dog is a priceless investment for the city to protect public safety.

"It is actually hard to quantify how much a dog can bring and it depends upon what happens, but when there was a suicidal gentleman in Lakeville a few years ago, Bosco ended up tracking him down," Constantineau said.

"If it is someone's life, it is irreplaceable and the nice thing about that is that the cost of the dog is covered by donations so there is very little from taxpayers," he said.

The investment of $15,000 covers the cost of the canine police dog and handler training. The sum has been donated by many community groups, including Thrivent Financial, local fundraisers from the profits of city liquor stores and checks from local residents.

"The chief said it is a big deal to have a dog, not only from a PR standpoint but from the abilities the dogs have because you can send a dog in somewhere where a human cannot go," Constantineau said.

Canines can swiftly enter into a crime scene and stop a potential violent subject. "They can be sent in more safely than putting officers in and dogs can see better and they can smell better," Constantineau said. A consulting firm recently reported how Farmington police was understaffed, well run and how the department did not experience the typical turnover of officers found in other metro police departments.

"It is so hard to quantify having the dog and it is a PR thing definitely because everybody loves a dog, but if it was only PR then we wouldn't and if we didn't get a value out of it," added Constantineau.

Other local cities may ask for a canine as far as mutual aid assistance, especially during the day hours.

If there was a critical enough incident in the state, Tipton and Odin could be sent out for mutual aid as far as the north metro area.

Odin will not be trained to respond to a bomb threat but will be of value to assist with drugs or missing persons' cases.

"He will be sent out if drugs are involved and honestly, if someone hears a dog bark, no one wants to face a canine," Constantineau said. "I remember this first time I met Bosco, who was a gentle giant, but I had never met him and when he was running toward me and I am a dog person and I realized it was OK and he just wanted to be petted," he added.

Farmington police owns a police canine squad vehicle equipped with special equipment like a high-tech device to monitor the heat and cold temperatures that will alert the officer with text messages.

Training academy

In the next few months Tipton will be working to establish a bond with Odin as his handler. Tipton will lead Odin in the full-time training at St. Paul Police Academy beginning March 5 for 12 weeks. Odin will be trained to become a dual purpose K-9 police dog, trained to do drug searches, sniff out drugs on crime scenes and help locate suspects or lost people.

"We are looking forward to having in him be here in the office and he will be around here more than Bosco because Odin will be on the day shift," Constantineau said.