The newest addition to Temple’s police force is extremely high maintenance. He has someone to brush his teeth, comb his hair and clip his toenails.
But, for the things he is able to do, all of those amenities are well worth it.
Jake is a 2-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador retriever who acts as Temple’s new bomb-sniffing dog. And though he requires a lot of attention outside of the job, Jake performs his job extremely well, his handler said.
“He’s got a great nose – a phenomenal nose, actually,” said officer Alan Kuterbach, Jake’s official guardian. When Campus Safety Services learned a dog would be joining the force, Kuterbach jumped at the chance to be Jake’s partner.
Jake was donated to the department last December. After a four-month training period with the canine unit of the Philadelphia Police Academy, Jake began working 40 hours a week at Temple in May, plus the occasional overtime.
“We have hundreds of events throughout the year,” Kuterbach said. “In the event there is a bomb scare, we can utilize him for that.”
Temple’s decision to bring Jake on board was not due to one specific incident or event. Rather, with Jake’s addition, Temple no longer needs to rely on other agencies for certain duties.
Kuterbach said that in the past, Temple used Philadelphia Police and SEPTA to perform bomb sweeps of the Liacouras Center and other buildings before large events.
But just a few weeks ago, Jake helped SEPTA Police in an emergency response.
When Jake sits down and stares intently at an object, everyone should find the nearest exit immediately – it’s Jake’s way of saying that an explosive is present in the room.
Jake is trained to detect 17 different types of explosives, but that is not the extent of his duties.
Kuterbach and Jake respond to medical emergencies, robberies and other police activity.
Jake is even able to pick up the scent of shell casings from recently fired guns.
Kuterbach said it is very important to keep Jake healthy. He eats a special hypoallergenic food formula and receives ear flushes frequently. Every month, Jake returns to the police academy to be recertified.
There has been a very positive response to Jake’s presence from the Temple community, Captain Eileen Bradley of Campus Safety Services said.
“He’s very popular,” Bradley said. “He’s a very positive impact on the campus. It’s also a great morale tool for the other officers.”
People from the Temple community generally agree that Jake’s addition to the police force could be helpful.
“I think it’s an excellent asset to the Temple police department,” Patricia Gibson, a member of the General Alumni Association, said. “It’s important to make sure all of the students are safe and secure. Plus, it may be nice to see a doggie on campus.”
Jay Mitchell, a sophomore Greek and Roman Classics major, agrees that Jake could be a benefit to the university if he is used to his fullest potential.
“I trust that Temple weighed the pros and cons cost-wise and that the hiring of Jake is for the benefit of all rather than his just being a poster dog,” Mitchell said. “I hope it works out.”
Though Jake may look cute, students shouldn’t pet him, Kuterbach said. Jake isn’t trained in people skills, so he may try to bite. But otherwise, Kuterbach says that Jake is “really a good dog.”
When not on the clock, Jake lives with Kuterbach and his family. Things were not so easy at first.
Kuterbach has a yellow Labrador retriever at home, and jealousy issues arose quickly.
“When I first brought him home, they went at it,” Kuterbach said. But after a few days, they became “best buds.”
Jake is also gentle around Kuterbach’s young son and has quickly become part of the family.
Students wandering around the local Temple campuses could see Kuterbach and Jake patrolling the streets during the day.
But just because students see the dog, that does not necessarily mean that danger is present.
Kuterbach and Jake enjoy the traveling, but they are always prepared for anything that comes their way.
“If we are called to a bomb scare,” Kuterbach said, “we’re there, we’re ready, we’re deployable.”
Though many may have never thought that Temple needed a bomb-sniffing dog, it was not necessarily a surprise to some, especially given the current state of today’s world.
“It does make me feel safer on campus to know that we have such resources if necessary,” Mitchell said, “but it’s balanced with a healthy discomfort knowing that there’s a possible need for such a dog. I guess it’s just part of the world we live in.”
Chris Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.