NISSWA -- The latest addition to the Nisswa Police Department may not seem too ambitious -- he's probably napping on the job more than he is awake. And if given the chance, he'd surely devour a doughnut or two.
But don't let that first impression fool you.
When it's time for his duties to begin, Bear is up for the challenge.
Bear, a 2-year-old chocolate Labrador, is the city's new K-9 patrol dog owned and trained by Nisswa Police Officer Brandon Rothwell.
Bear is a narcotics and tracking dog. He has been trained to sniff out narcotics during traffic stops and find missing or lost people. While many people may think of patrol dogs as those who attack and apprehend suspects, Bear is not like that. He has a good-natured temperament and seems more like a family dog who happens to know how to find drugs and lost children.
"He'll go up and lick him if he's got a gun or knife," Rothwell said of threatening suspects.
Rothwell recently traveled to Colorado to meet and train with Bear during a two-week handler course. Bear is certified to find methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. The pair returned from Colorado Feb. 8. Their first day on the job together was Friday.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," Rothwell said of having a patrol dog. "They're amazing tools."
Bear, Nisswa's new K-9 patrol dog, stays close to his owner and handler, Nisswa Police Officer Brandon Rothwell, when the two are working. Bear also has his own large pillow within the department office where he often is found sleeping.
"I like it," Nisswa Police Chief Craig Taylor said of Bear. "I think he's a great dog."
Bear is a massive 90-pound Lab with thick, wide paws. Rothwell said Bear was bigger than many of the German shepherds they trained alongside in Colorado. But Bear is spry for being so big. He jumps on top of furniture and vehicles as if he believes he's a small lap dog.
"He's kind of like me, actually," said Rothwell with a smile. "He's really laid-back. But he's got energy when he needs it. Don't let his size fool you. He's very agile. He has a split personality. He's calm but when I give him the command to find the drugs, he goes nuts."
Rothwell believes Highway 371 is a major drug pipeline. There have been many times when he and his fellow officers have made routine traffic stops and suspected drugs were inside the vehicle, but there wasn't a patrol dog available in the area to sniff for suspected drugs and the motorists wouldn't give permission for a voluntary search.
"I feel strongly he's going to help out," said Rothwell. "He'll pay for himself."
Rothwell said he and Bear will go into the schools and become a presence in the community. Many Nisswa area organizations and families donated funds to help buy Bear, who cost $6,500. The Nisswa Lions donated $4,000, Pequot Lakes Animal Hospital donated $100 worth of services, Ace Hardware donated $150, Lakes Area Lions donated $250, Zorbaz on Gull donated $100, and Dick and Leann Carlson donated $100. Camelot K-9 Academy, where Rothwell got Bear, donated $1,000.
Rothwell said he still needs donations to help pay for Bear's veterinary care and food. Those interested in making a donation may contact Rothwell at the Nisswa Police Department.
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