University police’s first bomb dog dies at the age of 12


Nala, the EOD K-9 for University Police, was put to rest last month after suffering from a genetic nerve disease. Nala used to sweep areas before school events to make sure the area was free from any explosives.

By Fatima Farha

Due to their intelligence and ability to become well-trained companions, dogs are often used by the police force as a part of the K-9 Unit. The K-9 Unit is made up of dogs who have gone through proper training to perform duties that police officers cannot do, such as sniffing for bombs.

One such dog, Nala, was a part of the University Police Department for 10 years, performing her duties as a bomb-sniffing dog, also known as an Explosives Ordnance Detection K-9. 

On Nov. 11, she was put to rest after suffering from a genetic nerve condition that rendered her hind legs useless, according to Nala’s handler, Officer Troy Chew.

Chew said Nala, a Belgian Malinois, retired in August after the disease began to take its toll on her body. After seeing how her health was deteriorating, Chew decided it was time for her to be put to rest. 

“It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” Chew said. 

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    As a bomb dog, Nala was responsible for sniffing out any hint of explosives before public events such as football games, basketball games, speaker events and Board of Trustees meetings. While she never detected one in her years of service, Chew said she was always able to find the ones he planted for her.

    He said he got Nala 10 years ago from Northern Michigan K-9 Inc., a company that trains dogs for the K9 force. Nala had been trained by this corporation and was brought to the University by Chew, who had to undergo his own training to understand Nala and her behaviors.

    In all their years together, Chew recalled many fond memories, especially football games.

    “Nala loved the football games, and I am a football guy and I loved sporting events and working all of the U of I football games with her was a lot of fun,” Chew said. 

    Officer Tim Hetrick, the K9 Unit Coordinator for the University Police Department, said he worked closely with Nala. He accompanied Chew to Michigan back when they first purchased her. 

    Hetrick said he also has many fond memories with Nala and that her death was “extremely difficult,” but he had a very positive experience with her over the last 10 years.

    “I often teased Officer Chew and told him she liked me better than him,” Hetrick said. “She was just a really sweet dog, and it was always a joy to work with her.” 

    The University Police Department has been using K-9s for at least 15 years, Chew said. The other K-9 on the force is Q, a narcotics dog, who has been around even longer than Nala. Chew said there has been at least one dog on the force for as long as he could remember.

    Since Nala’s retirement, Chew has begun to train a new bomb dog, 17-month-old Zuri. Despite being new, Chew said Zuri has been doing well, but there is still a lot of work to be done. 

    Fatima can be reached at [email protected].