During her public debut Tuesday, the Lexington Police Department’s newest four-legged officer couldn’t quite stop working.
As city and police officials welcomed her to the force during a media event at Rupp Arena, Tilly, a 2-year-old black Labrador, sniffed and searched for dangerous materials.
Tilly is a certified Vapor Wake dog, trained to detect even the smallest amounts of explosives on stationary or moving targets. Her handler, officer Jarvis Harris, compared her search process to catching the scent of perfume or cologne as someone walks by.
At-large Urban County Councilman Kevin Stinnett allocated $50,000 from surplus funds toward buying Tilly. She is one of 12 police dogs in the Lexington department.
Once she catches the smell of possible explosives, there’s no stopping her from chasing down the source, Harris said.
“I can try to pull her off if I want, but all she’s going to do is pull as hard as she can to try to get to the closest part of where the odor is coming from,” Harris said.
That persistent drive can make it hard for Tilly to sit still or obey commands, but Harris said he expects her to be more obedient to her nose than she is to him.
“Most police dogs are very obedient, and that’s because a lot of police dogs are patrol dogs, which means they might bite suspects. She’s not a bite dog,” Harris said. “I want her to not allow me to mess her up when she’s doing her searches, so she’s more obedient to the odor of explosives than she is to listening to me.”
Harris said Tilly was bred through an Auburn University program that uses research in genetics to breed working dogs. She was trained for 15 months at an AMK9 academy in Alabama. Harris trained at the academy alongside Tilly for seven weeks.
Since going on duty Oct. 1, Tilly has searched for explosives at parades, sporting events and other crowd scenes, Harris said.
“Tilly is no ordinary police officer, and she is certainly no ordinary dog,” Mayor Jim Gray said Tuesday. “Today it is necessary for cities and communities to prepare for every situation. Having Tilly at events here in Rupp Arena and other events with large crowds will allow us to provide an extra level of security and hopefully an added sense of safety for our citizens and guests.”