Nisswa Police Officer Conner Collette looks forward to working every day with a partner, both at home and while on patrol.
“I’m just excited to have her,” Collette said Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the police department’s open house.
Collette’s soon-to-be patrol partner is Shuri, a 1-year-old Belgian Malinois currently in training to be a K9 officer. She’ll start riding with Collette by next spring.
"Kudos to Conner (Collette) because he’s the one who started it. He’s the one who wanted it."
— Mark Utzinger, Nisswa City Council member
Shuri’s current owner and trainer, Pequot Lakes Police Officer Pat Pickar, brought her to the Nisswa open house and talked about training K9s.
“The Belgian Malinois is taking over the working dog role - they’re a little smaller and more agile,” Pickar said, explaining how this breed is replacing German shepherds as K9s.
They work and live longer, to age 11 or 12, vs. a German shepherd working to around age 8, said Pickar, an owner of CanAm Tactical K9 LLC who has been training K9s since 1998. He called German shepherds “the Cadillac of dogs,” and the Belgian Malinois “the Ferrari.”
Shuri is not in training to apprehend people; rather, she’s training to track people, such as lost children or people with dementia; to recover evidence; to detect narcotics; and to be obedient.
K9 units are changing direction away from being apprehension dogs, Pickar said.
"The Belgian Malinois is taking over the working dog role - they’re a little smaller and more agile."
— Pat Pickar, K9 trainer
The Nisswa City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 19, agreed to buy the K9 for $15,000 from CanAmTactical K9, and approved a K9 unit policy for the city’s police department. The goal is to get the cost for the dog paid for through grants, Police Chief Craig Taylor told the council.
The council also approved Taylor’s request to buy a 2022 squad car that will be outfitted for the K9. The department received a bid for $36,878, plus an estimated $7,974 in rigging costs for the K9 that grants will help offset.
Taylor said the idea to bring a K9 unit back to Nisswa - the department had a K9 named Bear years ago - arose last summer when officers went door to door to introduce themselves to residents in a community outreach effort.
Collette visited first-year council member Mark Utzinger and they talked about how valuable a K9 program would be for Nisswa. Collette said he’d done drug interdiction using a Cass County K9.
“After working with their dog several times, I thought it was worth getting one,” Collette said.
Utzinger, the council liaison to the police department, said when he found out Collette was interested in having a K9, he agreed it would be helpful for the city, especially along the Highway 371 corridor.
And the idea fit in perfectly with Utzinger’s goal to have more long-term planning in the city, including having employees come up with and implement ideas. He encouraged Collette and said other council members also liked the idea.
“Kudos to Conner because he’s the one who started it. He’s the one who wanted it,” Utzinger said.
Collette put the K9 program together, and the council supported it.
When Shuri is ready, Collette will train with her for four weeks, and then take her home to work with and bond with her.
“It’s a commitment. It’s a family commitment. It’s a lifetime commitment,” Pickar said. “This dog becomes your lifestyle.”
Shuri will be a shared resource among area law enforcement agencies, and will do particularly well detecting illegal controlled substances on Highway 371 through Nisswa. Taylor and Collette said the major highway is a drug corridor from the Twin Cities north.
Pickar’s daughter picked the name “Shuri,” a superhero who is Black Panther’s sister in the movie.
“Shuri means ‘Village’ and is so fitting considering the family of people it takes to raise these pups to make them the protectors of the communities they serve,” Pickar wrote in a Facebook post.
Her favorite treat is animal crackers from Costco. Pickar picked up Shuri from an Indiana breeder when she was 7 weeks old, then brought her to schools to interact with and get used to children.
Shuri’s sister, Timber, is a Baxter Police Department K9.
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.