2018-07-01 / Spotlight

Paws on Patrol

With Penn State Police Dog Rudie (and handler Officer Dustin Miller)

If you’ve been to a Penn State home football game in the last five years, you owe Penn State Police K-9 Rudie a thankful pat.

The 7-year-old Belgian Malinois has sniffed out the stadium using his explosives detection skills before every home game. And while he and his handler, Officer Dustin Miller, haven’t found anything troubling, it’s reassuring to know they’re on the job.

“Football games are long weeks,” Miller says. “We’re searching everything that comes into the stadium, and the stadium itself from top to bottom, and then game day we’re searching any vehicle that’s coming into that perimeter of the stadium.”

Rudie is trained to search for a variety of scents related to explosives, “anything from the powders like black powder, smokeless powder, all the way up into C-4 dynamite, all different kinds of commercial military explosives and even into peroxide-based homemade explosives.”

Brought to Pennsylvania from a police and military dog breeder in Holland in 2013 — yes, Rudie has his own passport — the obedient canine with an impressive sniffer is now a five-year veteran of the Penn State Police Department. Miller, who’s been on the force for 11 years, says his favorite part of working with Rudie is training with him.

“To wrap your head around it as a person that a dog can distinguish between twenty-some different odors that you can’t even smell if you jam up your nose, it blows your mind,” he says. “Every day just watching him work is pretty awesome.”

The duo trained together under the direction and at the expense of the Pennsylvania State Police, which has jurisdiction over Rudie and calls on him whenever they need him.

“If they need us anywhere in the state, they call us and we go help them,” Miller says. “State Police will only utilize State Police dogs, Penn State Police dogs and the Capital Police in Harrisburg. They’re not gonna put their name to any other dog.”

Miller says having Rudie at his side every day has increased his own job satisfaction and given him a lovable furry friend on and off duty.

“I consider him my dog but technically he’s not — he’s the university’s dog,” he says. “But 24/7 he’s with me.”

HOME TURF Miller has two dogs of his own, a border collie and a beagle mix, who get along well with Rudie on the family’s 10-acre property in Blanchard. On Rudie’s days off, “he just enjoys chewing on a bone and playing fetch. His fetch is so intense my border collie can’t keep up with him. He runs and runs… It’s crazy.”

HIDE & SEEK In addition to explosives, Rudie also is trained to search for guns and shell casings. “This spring we found a shell casing for a case in Bellefonte. … It’s not very often that explosives dogs get to actually find, in real-life scenarios, what they’re looking for.  With drug dogs, you’re finding stuff all the time.”

SIT TIGHT Although Rudie has the capacity to learn how to search for drugs, he does not, for one simple reason: When Rudie finds what he’s sniffing for, he indicates that by sitting. “There’s no way to determine what he’s indicating on,” explains Miller. “He can only sit; he can’t tell you what he found. So if I’m in a high school during a bomb threat and I’m searching and he sits, who do you call?”   

TRACKING TRAINING One skill he is adding to his repertoire is tracking — but Miller says he falls a bit short when it comes to apprehending the person he tracks.
“He would be what I would consider a dropout for the (apprehension) aspect of tracking, the bite work,” he says. “A dual-purpose dog is one that’s already trained for the bite sleeve. They’ll bite and they’ll hold. Rudie’s got the physical ability to do it, … his breed of dog is absolutely (good at) apprehension. But every dog has their own personality and he’s a lover, not a fighter. He isn’t timid; he just doesn’t want to bite and hold on.”

SHAKE A PAW Having such a friendly, four-legged partner has made Miller’s job interacting with the public much easier. “He’s such an easy icebreaker, to talk to people in a good way, whereas if you’re just a police officer, there’s a lot of negative interaction. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way… but with him I can just walk him through campus and he’s just a magnet for everybody.”

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