One member of the UNC Police force is set to retire after seven years of sniffing out dangers. Kash, a black Labrador retriever, is a K-9 officer who has been detecting explosives since he started in 2015.
Matt Dodson is an investigator with UNC Police and a K-9 handler. Kash served as Dodson’s partner within UNC Police since the labrador’s first day. Dodson said the two of them attended a six week training program in the summer of 2015 at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office in Fayetteville.
Kash was brand new to following orders.
“He was a green canine,” said Dodson, “which means all he knew how to do was sit when we got him.”
Kash was selected to be trained as a K-9 because he showed good drive when chasing after balls – that drive was applied to his training in finding odors that could be dangerous.
And Dodson said the training wasn’t just for Kash. He was a first-time K-9 handler and needed to understand Kash’s mannerisms as the dog sniffed out dangerous scents.
“I had to learn how to watch him and realize when he started getting into an odor and not to pull him off of the odor,” Dodson said. “It probably took me a good year to feel confident that I knew when he was in a certain odor or in an area where there was an odor. Just learning how he reacted and watching him was probably the hardest part, but for him it was fairly easy. I just had to learn him as much as he had to learn the different odors.”
During his tenure in the force, Kash attended almost every UNC basketball and football game and other campus events like when President Barack Obama visited in 2016. That visit was just one of Kash’s many ventures into politics. Dodson also said the pair worked campaign events all across the state to do sweeps of venues as there are not a lot of explosive K-9s in North Carolina.
Kash even passed the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms National Odor Recognition Test, making him one of the best in the country. The test is rigorous, lasting three days and requires a 100 percent to pass.
But one of Dodson’s favorite memories with Kash is just being able to interact with the community.
“Once I got done working [at games],” said Dodson, “the kids and people coming up and asking questions [was fun.] Just being able to interact with the community and talk to people about the K-9 program and let the kids pet Kash and things like that. Just kind of humanizing the uniform and the badge and just giving us as the police an opportunity to interact with the community is probably my favorite part.”
Dodson said while Kash was just like a regular member of the family when he wasn’t on the job, there were some differences in caring for a K-9 officer. Kash had a high-protein diet and wasn’t allowed a lot of treats or table food and Dodson kept him off furniture in the house. Now that Kash is no longer working, Dodson said some of that can change.
“I might let him cuddle up on the couch a little bit,” Dodson said. “Maybe get a steak or two.”
Kash will get to stay with Dodson and his family to live out the rest of his retirement.
“We do have a very strong bond,” Dodson said. “The last seven years I’ve probably spent more time with him than I have my family.”
UNC Police has three K-9 workers and is in the process of training a new K-9 to follow in Kash’s pawprints.
Featured photo via Jon Gardiner/UNC
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