Sproul on the prowl
New police dog-in-training will add to campus security arsenal


police dog

UC Police Officer Darcy Dickinson is handler for the youngest member of the force, three-year-old Sproul, who is currently in training to sniff out explosives.
Joanne Connelly photo

07 November 2001 | Sproul, a spunky golden retriever, will do just about anything for a chance to play with her spiky red rubber ball. It is this eagerness — and an incredible sense of smell — that won her a job at the UC Police Department.

This canine officer is being trained by Sergeant Brenda Flores to sniff out explosives for the police department, a crucial skill in a time of heightened security concerns.
“Sproul is an explosives detection dog,” said Flores. “If we get a bomb threat or have a visiting dignitary on campus, she can quickly sweep the area to determine if an explosive is present.”

In the past, the campus has had to borrow a dog from another police force to perform these functions.

Flores and Officer Darcy Dickinson, Sproul’s handler, work with the three-year-old dog every day. During a typical exercise, Sproul must identify the different scents coming from a series of cardboard boxes. When she gets it right, she gets to play with her beloved rubber ball.

So far, Sproul has learned to identify five odors. She must master an additional four to be certified, which should happen in early December.

At the end of the day, Sproul goes home with Dickinson to the comforts enjoyed by “normal” dogs.

Sproul was found through a golden retriever rescue service, said Police Chief Victoria Harrison. The department was interested in finding a dog both with an aptitude for the training and for which it could provide a home. Sproul fit the bill.

Once her bomb-sniffing certification is done, Sproul will then be trained in search- and-rescue operations, Harrison said. Sproul will be one of the few police dogs certified in both bomb sniffing and search and rescue. She will serve as a role model for the Home Team’s K9 Search and Rescue unit, a group of campus pet owners and dogs who train to volunteer their services in the event of a local disaster.


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