K-9 Mack joins Jasper police force


Officer Brent Duncan and K-9 Mack

JASPER — The newest member of the Jasper Police Department is sociable and bursting with energy. His name is Mack, and though he’s only been patrolling the streets for a few days, he already loves his job.

He doesn’t fit the textbook definition of a cop, though.

His partner, Brent Duncan, considers himself a dog person. But he’s never had one quite like Mack.

“I grew up with dogs, but it’s completely different handling a police dog,” said Duncan, 29.

Mack — who is a 16-month-old German shepherd from Slovakia — officially joined JPD as a K-9 in April. Last week, he and Duncan completed a six-week course at Top Dog Police K9 Academy in Evansville, notching the furry officer a Patrol Canine certification through the rigorous United States Police Canine Association standards.

That intense training prepared him for narcotics, tracking and apprehension work — three of the most dangerous parts of being on a police force. The duo spent between eight and 10 hours a day honing Mack’s sense of smell as he hunted down would-be perps and stashes of narcotics. Sometimes, he’d be tasked with leaping into the air and chomping on a trainer wearing protective gear to practice biting techniques.

Agility and obedience exercises were also focuses of the course. Duncan — who is now a certified K-9 handler officer — recalls regularly hitting 15,000 steps a day on his Fitbit activity tracker during the training, equating to about 5 1/2 miles of walking.

He admits he didn’t know what he was doing at the beginning, and Mack was skittish at the start. But they quickly hit a groove and now share a bond.

“A working dog, his main purpose, he wants to please me,” Duncan said. “He wants to work. He’s a great worker, and that’s fun for him. He’s the happiest when we’re out doing something work-related, and he gets bored easily.”

The two have clear boundaries — Mack can’t sleep in Duncan’s bed or lay on his couch at home — because he is first and foremost an employee, and not a pet. His purchase and training was funded entirely by $16,500 in private donations to JPD.

Three dogs from other departments trained alongside the new Jasper team, and Duncan said he is “100% happy” he got Mack. Some of his fellow canine classmates didn’t get along with others.

“He loves to work, but when it’s not work time, he loves playing,” Duncan said. “He could go from training and doing 20 bites that day ... and coming back, I could wrestle around with him and be fine.”

Mack is loyal, and Duncan joked that his partner doesn’t complain about anything. He joins Ares, a narcotics dog also serving the department with his partner, Sgt. Adam Bower.

Duncan is grateful for the opportunity to work with Mack and is looking forward to the time they will spend together.

“I feel really blessed and lucky to get chosen because this is a big responsibility, a lot of work, but it’s gonna be a great benefit to the city and our department,” Duncan said. “It’s also going to be a lot of fun.”

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