Letâs get the obvious question out of the way.
No, the newest four-legged hire at the University of North Texas Police Department is not named after Keegan Brewer, the guy who deserves an Academy Award for his epic 90-yard punt return against the University of Arkansas last Saturday.
But Keegan the K-9 might soon be as popular as the UNT wide receiver when he roams Apogee Stadium this football season.
The 1 1/2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever made his online debut Monday in a social media video showing him easily besting his service animal competitors â a rooster, pig and cat â for the job. Heâs already made the rounds on campus and received plenty of attention from students.
âThey all miss their dogs at home,â said Keeganâs handler, Officer Nick Brauchle. âOne girl who was having a bad day came up and asked if she could pet him. She said Keegan made her day so much better.â
Our mission: find the perfect animal to serve with us. One to assist @MeanGreenSports games or @UNT_DSA events, support the mission & goals of #UNT, help maintain a safe campus & make @UNTsocial & @UNTPrez proud. It was a lot of work, but we think we made the best choice! pic.twitter.com/RswcvrnSpM
â UNT Police Dept. (@UNTPolice) September 17, 2018
Behind all the chin scratches and high-pitched squeals people let out when they see him, Keegan has a job to do. As an explosives detection dog, he and Brauchle are charged with checking every square inch of event spaces to make sure there arenât any possible bombs or suspicious packages lying around.
Theyâll be on hand for major happenings like football games and graduations as well as smaller UNT-sponsored events off-campus that involve controversial speakers who may bring a higher threat risk.
Keegan is the first K-9 in the department since Joy, the Belgian Malinois drug dog, retired in 2016 at age 12.
âWe knew we wanted an explosives detection dog,â UNT Police Chief Ed Reynolds said. âObviously, drug detection is important, but with the things going on â what weâve seen this summer down in Austin with the bombings and what theyâve dealt with â human safety is our highest priority.â
The dog was born in Auburn, Alabama, (donât worry, he doesnât seem to be a Tigers fan) and completed socialization training at a low-security prison. Then he went to sniff school and learned to detect 10 types of explosives. After seven weeks of handler training with Brauchle, the pair headed back to Denton earlier this month.
Keeganâs keen sense of smell is particularly suited to crowds. Heâs able to walk through hundreds of people and detect a single trace of bomb-making material. When he completes his task, heâs rewarded with a lot of praise and his favorite ball.
âHe is a high-energy dog and he searches very fast,â Brauchle said. âI just have to keep up with him and let him do his job. Iâm here to direct him, but he still leads the way.â
When heâs not on the clock, Keegan is still very much a puppy. He lives with Brauchle and loves to gnaw on Nylabones. During an interview on Wednesday, the dog zoomed around the conference room at the Sullivant Public Safety Center and playfully tugged at his leash.
âCan we relax?â Brauchle cooed at him.
Keegan wagged his tail but did not comply.
As with all good service dogs, a switch flips in Keeganâs brain when itâs time to work. Brauchle will hold the leash differently and change his body language. Keegan will follow suit, perking up his ears and putting his nose to the grindstone.
âThere are a lot of added responsibilities, but thereâs also the joy of having him as a partner,â Brauchle said. âHe just wants to work and heâs very good at it.â
If you want to say hello to Keegan, he and Brauchle will be at UNTâs Safety Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday on the Library Mall. Hopefully, heâll have a green collar by then.