By Shawn Raymundo
Disney, the ASU Police dog, could soon be making more rounds around the Tempe campus after temperatures in the Valley cool down.
ASU Det. Parker Dunwoody, Disney’s trainer, said Disney’s typical training grounds include ASU Gammage, Armstrong Hall and the Office of the President at the Fulton Center.
Disney has been at numerous events on campus, doing sweeps around Sun Devil Stadium and Wells Fargo Arena before football and basketball games.
Disney has even assisted other agencies around the valley, including the Salt River Police and Tempe Police to search for missing firearms and possible bombs.
Disney has been training every day to combat harmful explosive attacks since the start of her 16-week training, which took place before she joined ASU Police in Nov. 2009.
“Every time something new comes up that the bad guys think up to hurt us, we have to train on it,” Dunwoody said.
Disney is trained to sniff out explosives and firearms and can distinguish between 900,000 combinations of explosive odors, Dunwoody said.
“She’s an evidentiary dog where if somebody gets into a shooting and they need to find the gun or they need to find odor on the suspect or shell cases, she can find that,” Dunwoody said.
Dunwoody said the 16-week training consisted of six weeks of learning the different odors and 10 weeks acting out different scenarios as scents imprinted.
Disney is trained on the Food Reward system, which means she can only eat when she successfully identifies explosives.
Dunwoody said negative reinforcement is a bad tool for training because it can make dogs feel melancholy if they felt they did something wrong.
“They don’t get praise, they don’t get any attention when they do something we don’t like,” Dunwoody said. “They are very dependant on us, so they take things a little bit personal if you were to pull the collar or something like that.”
No event has been too small or too big for Disney to handle. She has made appearances at the 2011 Super Bowl game in Dallas and the U.S. Open in California. Disney also assisted in the aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting in Tucson.
“Disney is very laidback, she’s very methodical, she doesn’t like to rush through things so she’ll take her time and really that’s what I want,” Dunwoody said. “I don’t want her to ever miss anything so she’ll take her time to make sure she does a thorough job and that’s even without me telling her what to do.”
ASU Police are not expecting immediate danger to ASU but rather want to utilize Disney as a public relations tool to show students they don’t need to fear the police.
ASU Police Sgt. Christopher Speranza said Disney is a great way for students and the police to interact peacefully.
“Disney brings a smile on people’s faces,” Speranza said. “Disney, at times, is a good ice breaker.”
Psychology junior Kara Nippert said the knowledge of ASU’s police dog gives her peace of mind.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Nippert said. “(It) makes me feel a little bit safer.”
Disney is a Yellow Lab, was born in 2008 and will be four-years-old this January. ASU Police has had Disney since Nov. 2009 when she was sworn in to protect and to serve the ASU community. Dunwoody said her first year of service through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was spent at a federal women’s correctional institute.
Dunwoody said the first time he met Disney at the kennel wasn’t the most welcoming.
“I went up to the kennel and she stood up in the back, but anytime a female came by she would run up to the door,” Dunwoody said. “She didn’t really quite know this big blubbering giant coming up to her kennel.”
Disney would most likely be working with ASU Police until she is 10 or 11-years-old, which is when most police dogs typically retire, Dunwoody said.
Their partnership is special, and Dunwoody even includes Disney on most vacations as a member of his family.
“She’s the department’s first K-9. This is one of the reasons why I got into law enforcement because I always wanted to be a K-9 handler,” Dunwoody said. “There’s nothing better than going to work with your best friend.”