Dash wins hearts, keeps campus safe

Specially trained K-9 may be only police dog on a college campus in Colorado

March 1, 2017
Dash and Officer Corey Averill
Officer Corey Averill poses with his new partner Dash outside the Auraria Campus Police Department.

The newest member of the Auraria Police Department excitedly barks, pants and circles in his kennel as Officer Corey Averill walks up to his four-legged partner. Averill unlatches the kennel door and – in a blur of energy, sniffs and fur – Dash is back on duty.

Dash completed his training and joined the Auraria Campus Police Department (ACPD) patrol team in early January, and already the 18-month-old English Cream Golden Retriever is quite possibly the most popular member of the police force. “People love seeing him walk around,” Averill says. “He’s definitely got a few big fans on campus.”

With a student, faculty and staff population of about 50,000 the Auraria Campus “is a big area with so many people” that the ACPD thought bringing a K-9 into the fold was an additional – and friendly – tool for campus safety. Averill did some research prior to Dash’s arrival and believes he is the only police dog patrolling a college campus in Colorado.

Dash the crime-fighting dog
Dash sniffs a locker while on patrol on the Auraria Campus. Photo from Dash’s Instagram account.

Dash is trained to sniff out explosive odors. While already certified as an Explosives Detection K-9, he does weekly training with fellow canines in the Front Range Explosive Detection (FRED) group. These elite dogs are trained on the odors of ingredients found in all explosives.

Helping campus stay safe

“It’s just a preventative measure to make sure the campus stays safe,” Averill says. “It’s also good PR for our Police Department to have a K-9. He’s a good way for officers to reach out and bridge the gap between ourselves and the students.”

Averill is assigned as Dash’s handler, so when the officer goes home, so does Dash. “He’s with me 24-7,” Averill says. “It’s a good way to get that bond, to know what your dog is thinking. I still do everything I did before on the job, but now I have a dog. He gets super-excited in the morning when I pull out his work collar.”

For Dash, going to work is the same as a day of playing. He especially enjoyed a Valentine’s Day promotion at the Tivoli Bookstore where he got to appear in countless selfies with students. “It allowed us to talk to the students about our department,” Averill says of the collaboration. “It was a great way for us to get information about the ACPD out to the students.”

For students who’ve yet to encounter Dash in the fur, they can monitor his exploits on an Instagram account – @dashthek9. There are photos of Dash doing building sweeps, sniffing around lockers, and sunning himself on the promenade at the Tivoli Quad.

Dash and Denver
Dash takes a moment to enjoy the view of downtown Denver from the Tivoli Quad. Photo from Dash’s Instagram account.

“He’s got an easygoing personality, but with any dog you should ask me before you go up and pet him,” Averill advises. “Dogs are kind of like people – they like their own space. He actually prefers to be the one to go up to people.”

When he’s on the job, Dash mostly goes up to unattended backpacks. He sniffs the pack and then Averill opens it to make sure it’s safe. “It’s amazing how many people leave stuff around campus,” the officer says.

Dash is clearly K-9 material

Dash was first put up for adoption by a family in Texas, and he later ended up at the Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies. An Arvada police officer, who operates the Rocky Mountain Canine Academy, spotted the young, cream-colored retriever and ran him through a battery of tests to see if he was K-9 material. He liked what he saw.

Dash now wears the “Police Dog” vest and goes about his duties – whether they be continued obedience training, or building and ground sweeps ahead of some of the University of Colorado Denver and Auraria Campus’s high-profile events – with tail-wagging vigor. His presence means the ACPD has to rely less on outside agencies and their K-9s for site sweeps ahead of special events. At large venues, such as graduations, the ACPD will continue to work with partner agencies such as FRED to perform precautionary sweeps for dangerous materials.

When he’s not on foot patrol, Dash has his own specially-designed patrol vehicle. It’s chockfull of features catering to a canine, including a back-seat kennel and automations that keep the cabin of the vehicle cool at all times.

“I think he’s reached every goal we have set for him so far,” Averill says proudly.

Dash even has a name that’s customized for his sprawling campus beat. “His name comes from a non-alcoholic beverage that the Tivoli Brewing Company made during Prohibition,” his partner says.