URBANA – The University of Illinois Police Department’s new narcotics K9, Chewy, is expected to be ready for his first patrol by mid-August.
The 15-month-old German Shepherd from Slovakia is currently in training with his handler, Officer Doug Beckman, and is expected to be a valuable resource for the department. Police dogs like Chewy help not only with finding drugs and other concealed items, but also are trained in tracking fleeing offenders and help to protect officers.
Chewy is Beckman’s third dog in 17 years, and the name is a shortened version of Chewbacca. Both of Beckman’s previous two dogs’ names – Quinty and Roxey – ended with the letter Y, so he wanted to keep that pattern with Chewy.
Chewy’s favorite toy is a rolled-up hand towel.
“They’ll find things that are hidden, covered with other substances that a normal officer wouldn’t be able to smell or locate. They can find them in hidden compartments, in areas officers might overlook,” Beckman said. “In large areas, they can cut down search time dramatically if you’re looking for either narcotics or people … so you can free up officers for other calls.”
Every dog is different. Beckman said the training is important for him, too, as he learns and adjusts to Chewy's speed and habits.
The department’s previous narcotics K9, Quinty, died unexpectedly in April. During a training session this week at Scott Hall with Tilton, Illinois-based Midwest Professional Canine Services, Beckman said the bond between a police K9 handler and his or her dog is very special.
“You’re with them all day at work and at home. You spend more time with your dog than your family. You’re with (the dog) 24 hours per day,” Beckman said. “Both (Quinty and Roxey) have done things to keep me safe.”
Condolences to Beckman and the department came in from around the country after news of Quinty’s passing spread.