IUPD-IUPUI welcomes Indy, its new explosives-detecting dog

Officer Rob Botts and IndyView print quality image
IUPD-IUPUI officer Rob Botts leads Indy, the department's new explosives-detecting dog, on a training exercise in Cavanaugh Hall. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

One of the newest members of IUPD-IUPUI is a good boy.

When Indy, the new explosives-detecting dog, completes his training in October, he will be promoted to a very good boy as he will be certified to help keep our campus safe.

The chocolate Labrador retriever has had a few appearances on campus, always with his handler, officer Rob Botts, nearby. The 9-month-old puppy thrilled the IUPUI softball team during some training at the Natatorium, and he charmed the chancellor's office during a recent visit.

The introduction of explosives-detecting dogs is a new initiative for IUPD.

"It's an honor for me. We have two dogs in our whole IUPD system," Botts said. "To be selected as one of two people as a dog handler -- it was a lofty goal I wanted to achieve."

Description of the following video:

[Audio: Up-tempo pop music plays throughout]

[Video: A picture of Indy, the new IUPD explosives-detecting canine]

[Text appears: IUPUI Presents]

[Text appears: Meet Indy IUPD's first canine at IUPUI]

[Text appears: Indy is an explosives detection K-9]

[Video: Closeup on Indy as he looks at the camera]

[Video: Indy plays catch on a soccer field]

[Text appears: He is being trained to find up to 19,000 explosives combinations]

[Video: A picture of Indy in his K-9 vehicle]

[Text appears: Which helps keep campus safe!]

[Video: Indy performs a training exercise with Officer Rob Botts, sniffing around in a storage area]

[Text appears: Indy is trained solely to detect explosives]

[Video: More of Indy playing fetch]

[Text appears: In fact, he loves getting pets from new friends]

[Text appears: (Just ask first!)]

[Video: various still photos of Indy]

[Text appears: You can find Indy around campus or helping his K-9 partners at special IU Bloomington events]

[Video: Back to playing catch on the field]

[Text appears: Follow Indy on Instagram: @IUPDk9indy]

[Screen goes to black]

[Text appears: IUPUI, Fulfilling the promise, iupui.edu]

IUPD-IUPUI welcomes Indy, its new explosives-detecting chocolate Labrador, to campus. Video by Rachel Terlep, Indiana University

Indy was obtained Dec. 12, but members of IUPD have been checking in on the pup since early fall. He was bred in Delavan, Illinois, from a bloodline of bird dogs. After overcoming a couple of winter illnesses, he started his training in January. Botts and the rest of the department were thrilled to see Indy respond naturally to exercises, from introducing 12 different odors related to explosives by hand to establishing a grid-like approach to quickly decipher a scent's source.

Indy will not be used in apprehension or narcotics detection. His keen sense of smell for explosives detection will be based at the IUPUI station, providing assistance to the IUPUI and Bloomington campuses -- and the city of Indianapolis -- when called to serve.

"He's not a polished dog yet," Botts said. "He still has a long way to go, but he's doing phenomenal work."

How to engage with Indy

Indy is still a puppy and is very friendly. But he is already trained in a manner that when he is working, he is working. A recent visit to the IUPUI station saw him doing puppy things -- rolling on the carpet, greeting everyone in the room and playing with anyone who was game, all with a constantly wagging tail. But when he realized a training exercise was about to happen, he pulled at the lead and was ready to do his duty.

Indy will continue training exercises like this one until the fall, when he will be certified as an IUPD explosives-detecting dog. Photos by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

As with all service animals, it's best practice to ask the handler before any pets, rubs or scratching sessions. Botts said Indy can still get a little distracted if approached during an exercise.

"It might look like we're just out walking around, but we could be training. We might be working," Botts said. "We don't want him to get in the habit of expecting that everyone who walks up to him is going to pet him."

Botts and his fellow officers were immediately impressed with Indy's personality. Even as a puppy, his calm demeanor has helped with training.

"He's very laid-back, kind of unbelievable for a puppy," Botts added.

Will find explosives for food

Botts has had the advantage of assistance from IUPD-Bloomington officer Ryan Skaggs, who has handled Indiana University Bloomington's explosives-seeking dog, Zeus, for the last two years. The officers know that training these dogs is an ongoing effort, but having 10 months to train Indy has been advantageous.

"We're able to hand train him, and Botts knows this dog better than anybody," Skaggs said. "We know everything that's happened to this dog after his first three months. He's seen the fundamental growth, and that's been our biggest benefit."

Zeus is a chocolate Lab mix who was trained on a play-incentive basis. When Zeus finds the source of the scent, he is rewarded with a few tennis ball tosses. Indy is given food after he successfully completes his exercises. This practice started at the very beginning of training.

"I would present the odor to him, he would smell it a few times, and then I would feed him a small handful of food," Botts said. "We would do about 120 to 180 reps of that a day. Now, he's jumping out of the car and instantly finding an odor."

A recent exercise found both dogs at the IUPUI Campus Facility Services warehouse on Indiana Avenue. The space is huge, and the workers are happy to host the officers and their dogs for hiding scents within the many nooks and crannies of the warehouse.

Both dogs took methodical approaches to the exercise, weaving through aisles of shelving before picking up the first faint whiff of an explosive or bullet shell casing. The pace of the dogs' gaits is quick yet steady. The closer they get to the "problem," the speed of the dogs' movements increases, and the searching becomes more detailed until there's a sudden -- and cute -- sit in front of the scent's source. Then it's Botts, Skaggs and IUPD's turn to proceed with the next steps.

'Unattended' vs. 'suspicious'

On Nov. 5, a "suspicious package" near Eskenazi Hall was called into IUPD-IUPUI. This was still more than a month before Indy was brought to Indiana. Botts said Indy would not have been put into that potentially dangerous situation. Robots and bomb squads from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department would be utilized.

However, "unattended packages" would be an opportunity for Indy to spring into action.

"If it's reported as suspicious, we won't bring out the dog. We have too much invested in him," Botts explained. "Right after the Eskenazi Hall incident, we got a lot of 'unattended package' calls that we would have used the dog for."

Indy will be on the job at large campus occasions like commencement, Jagathon and events at the Natatorium. He will also be utilized by the university at football and basketball games. IU Athletics invested $15,000 in Indy's acquisition and training.

Part of the family

Botts has been with Indy almost every hour since the dog arrived in his namesake city. When Botts is off-duty, Indy is still with him at home. The pooch has blended in well with his new family.

"He's a member of my family. He's fully integrated into my family," Botts said. "He's just like any dog at home. He snuggles on the couch and watches TV -- he loves 'Wheel of Fortune.'"

Deputy Chief Bill Abston echoes his department's soaring praise of the work Botts and Indy have put in. Abston sees nothing but paws-itives so far.

"I think it's something we've needed for a while with our special events where there are a lot of people," he said. "It's amazing what he's able to do. We expect to get a lot of community engagement with the dog, and it's nice to have to have this resource, which we've needed."

Indy is ready to train.View print quality image
Indy is always ready to train. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University