(UTPD) What is Kale? A) A leafy green vegetable B) A floppy-eared bomb-sniffing black Lab.
If your answer is A, you would be correct. If your answer is B, you would also be correct.
This month, K-9 Kale became the newest four-legged officer of the University of Tennessee Police Department. He is a two-and-a-half-year-old pup who is certified in explosives detection.
He is the department’s first black Labrador. He joins UTPD’s three other K-9s—Bruno, a German shepherd certified in drug detection and apprehension, and Athena and Tica, both Belgian Malinois certified in explosives detection.
Kale replaces Bira, a Belgian Malinois who retired from the department this summer after six years of service.
Kale is paired with UTPD Officer Kaylyn May and trained with her for four weeks this summer at Iron Heart High Performance Working Dogs in Pomona, Kansas. Iron Heart acquired Kale from a couple in Baldwin City, Kansas. The trainer tested him to see if he would be good for police work. “He was exceptional,” May said.
“From the first day I met him, he jumped on me. We had to fix that problem so he isn’t jumping on Grandma at a football game,” May said with a laugh. “But he’s just a friendly happy go-lucky dog. Very personable. And he loves to work for his ball.”
May uses a specific ball to train Kale in obedience work and to reward him when he correctly identifies explosives. It took May a few days to pick up on Kale’s cues and alerts. “But once I learned that, it didn’t take us long to bond,” she said.
May, who joined UTPD in May 2018, is assigned to a night shift squad, and Kale will patrol with her when he’s not working special events. Kale’s high energy is a good match for the young adults who largely make up UT’s student body. “I think he would like their excitement,” she said.
May added: “His personality can also be comforting to most students. If we’re out on campus and meet someone having a bad day, perhaps his personality and mood will help that person.”
At home, Kale enjoys walks and loves to play in the yard with a firehose-shaped toy. He also loves water—swimming in it, playing with it, and trying to catch it. He now has two four-legged brothers, a four-year-old chocolate Lab named Moose and a six-year-old bluetick coonhound named Hank.
And just how does a police dog happen to be named for a vegetable?
His original family gave him the name Kale but spelled it Kael, May said. She simply flipped the E and the L.
“I initially wanted to change it completely, but it grew on me,” May said. “He answers to it. It’s kind of cool.”