Man's best friend could be man's worst nightmare if one were to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Meet Nikki, the Belgian Malinois who works for the Tama County Sheriff's Office. More specifically, Nikki works for and lives with Deputy Joe Quandt. Nikki is 7 years old and has been with Quandt for the past five years.
She was purchased for $10,000 from the North Iowa K-9 unit. The funding used to buy Nikki was raised through donations from organizations and individuals within Tama County.
Nikki was rewarded after catching “the bad guy” with the bite sleeve worn by local police officer Jeremiah Mussman.
Photo by Allison Graham
Upon meeting Nikki she is a typical sweet, energetic, tail-wagging dog. She is very social, friendly and, according to Quandt, good with children. But do not be fooled, as a dual-purpose police dog Nikki is trained as both a patrol and narcotics detection dog. Her main purpose is to be used as a locating tool. Nikki is able to detect drug odor as well as to locate and track suspects. She assists in narcotic searches of houses, cars and buildings. On April 6, when Toledo was under a codeRED alert, Nikki assisted with the search of the rifle-carrying suspect.
Nikki is trained and certified in narcotics, obedience and agility. Each year she obtains re-certification with the United States Police Canine Association. Nikki's re-certification process also serves as a competition between other Iowa police dogs. This year Nikki took third place out of 46 dogs and in previous years has taken first place in the obedience competition.
"She does really well," Quandt said.
Nikki was fully trained at 2 years old when Quandt received her. Nikki is trained to attack anyone who is attacking Quandt. She is trained to bite but will only do so for serious crimes only.
Among her many talents, Nikki is also becoming bilingual. Nikki responds to approximately 15-20 verbal commands which are mostly in German. However, Quandt is integrating English into her vocabulary. For example, the word "good" translated into German is the word "brav." When Quandt wants to tell Nikki that she has done a good job, he often says "brav good" but sometimes simply says "good."
Each day can be very different for Quandt and Nikki as they will respond to a variety of calls throughout the county. An area that Nikki frequently assists with are traffic stops.
On April 9, both the city of Tama and Toledo police departments held a special training about how they use Nikki to assist with searches. Officer Jeremiah Mussman was the lucky volunteer who got to wear a protective sleeve and receive a bite from Nikki. Quandt gave Nikki a verbal command to "attack" Mussman. Once Nikki had done her job she was rewarded with the bite sleeve worn by Mussman.
"It is all about the reward," said Quandt.
Allison Graham is a reporter for the Tama News Herald. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org