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Dog days: New State Patrol K-9 units are on the job

Aug. 7, 2017

Trooper Kyle Goodwin and K-9 Keno demonstrate a narcotics search of a vehicle.
Trooper Kyle Goodwin and K-9 Keno demonstrate a narcotics search on the exterior of a vehicle. The pair is one of State Patrol's three new K-9 teams that will help remove drugs from the streets. 

Trooper Austin Christensen & K-9 King.

K-9 King does a demonstration with Trooper Austin Christensen.​

Meet King, Keno and Remi. They’re dedicated Minnesota State Troopers, having completed a grueling 15-week training course. They love their jobs and are committed to their work of helping get drugs off the streets. They’re dependable, passionate, and work well with their fellow troopers. 

Oh, and they’re dogs.

The three newest additions to the State Patrol’s K-9 unit bring the total up to 16, stationed around the state. Fifteen of them are trained to detect the odors of various narcotics (they helped seize 1,150 pounds of marijuana alone in the first six months of 2017), and one K-9 officer is trained to detect explosives.

The K-9 teams often help out other law enforcement agencies. Sometimes they assist other troopers on traffic stops; other times they help their fellow law enforcement officers with houses or other structures where drugs are believed to be hidden.

​K-9 Remi with Trooper Shaun Leshovsky.
​K-9 Remi is teamed with Trooper Shaun Leshovsky.

So what’s the backstory on these three new K-9 troopers? Keno and Remi are Belgian Malinois (often mistaken for German Shepherds); King is a German Shorthaired Pointer. All three went through a 10-week training with the State Patrol’s K-9 instructors in the spring of 2017.

K-9 Coordinator Chad Mills and K-9 Instructor Derrick Hagen taught the dogs to sniff out the odors of marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. Once they detect an odor, they can alert their handler by scratching at the place where the odor is or sitting and looking at it. Interestingly, both Malinois prefer to scratch; King prefers to sit.

Once the dogs learned the necessary skills, it was time to pair them up with their handlers: Trps. Austin Christensen (King), Kyle Goodwin (Keno), and Shaun Leshovsky (Remi). Then the teams underwent another five weeks of training as their handlers learned to help their canine partners find the scents.

So next time you think about how the State Patrol keeps Minnesotans safe, remember King, Keno, Remi and their 13 K-9 colleagues. Because they can do things human troopers can’t, they’re an important part of the team -- and they’re excited to start their new jobs. Or, as Trp. Christensen puts it, “We’re ready to go.”