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The Daily Tar Heel

Kash and Officer Dodson: A new friendship at DPS

The UNC football team practice on Tuesday, August 25, 2015.
The UNC football team practice on Tuesday, August 25, 2015.

The Department of Public Safety recently adopted a new worker — a two-year-old black Labrador retriever named Kash.

Kash completed his training this summer and is now certified in explosive detection, DPS spokesman Randy Young said.

Kash is the fourth dog to ever be part of the DPS K-9 unit, and he is one of two dogs in the unit. He joined the unit after the retirement of another K-9, Buddy.

“Buddy was the darling of the campus, but we’ve retired him,” Young said.

In the past, the DPS K-9s have checked Kenan Memorial Stadium and the Dean Smith Center for threats before games, in addition to regular patrols.

Kash was trained for six weeks, a total of 275 hours.

University police officer Matt Dodson, Kash’s handler, trained with him at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

Kash is trained to detect explosives over a range of terrains, including fields, vehicles and outside and inside buildings.

Dodson will lead Kash to the area that needs to be inspected, let him off the leash and say, “Go find it.” When Kash detects the scent of an explosive, he puts his nose on it, stops and looks directly at Dodson.

“His reward is a tennis ball, and that’s the only time he sees a tennis ball,” Dodson said.

Dodson tosses him the ball, and Kash chases it around as his reward.

Young said he thinks Kash is an impressive dog.

“Some dogs get distracted, but he just goes straight to it,” Young said.

Kash lives with Dodson and his family; Dodson said Kash is very playful.

“He’s low maintenance,” Dodson said. “He’ll go out in the yard and play with himself. He’s like a cat.”

Dodson said that both he and Kash were new to this type of work. Although Dodson has worked at DPS for the past 16 years, he’s never worked with the K-9 unit before.

“He was a green dog; I was a green handler,” Dodson said. “All he knew how to do was sit before training.”

Dodson said he has enjoyed working with Kash.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Dodson said. “I’m having a lot of fun, and I’ve realized the importance of it, too.”

Lt. Josh Mecimore, the public information officer for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said beyond regular police work, their K-9 units help them connect with the community.

“Most people like dogs, and our dogs are very friendly when they’re not focused on working,” Mecimore said. “People seem to enjoy interacting with the dogs, especially the kids, and it helps people to let down barriers because people feel comfortable around the dogs.”

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Dodson said he hopes that having Kash around will help him connect with the campus community, too.

“I want people to feel comfortable with both the police and the police K-9s,” Dodson said. “I want people to feel comfortable approaching me and my car and asking to see Kash.”

Dodson said that in the next year, the two plan to go through additional training to be certified to detect firearms.