As a 14-year veteran of the Papillion Police Department, Matt Elsasser has been on road patrol, served as a School Resource Officer, worked in narcotics and was also part of a task force.
His next chapter has him working with a partner, one of the furry variety.
Elsasser is in training, along with Knox, to become the next K-9 unit with the department. Chris Goley and Deuce currently serve as the only K-9 unit.
It has always been his goal to become a K-9 officer and now Elsasser is starting to see it become a reality.
“Even when I was in high school, I knew I wanted to someday be a K-9 officer,” he said. “No matter what job I’ve done with the department, I’ve always geared it around someday becoming a K-9 officer.”
When the department decided in the spring to add a second K-9 unit, there was no hesitation on Elsasser’s part to seize the opportunity.
“I could see we were gaining traction to get that second dog,” he said. “The minute we found out about this my wife (Allison) told me, ‘You’re going for this.’”
Knox, a 21-month old Belgian Malinois, was selected in June from Canine Tactical in Chariton, Iowa.
“He’s a little smaller than other K-9 breeds, which makes him a little more versatile,” Elsasser said.
Elsasser and Knox recently completed eight weeks of narcotics training that allowed Knox to be narcotics certified by the State of Nebraska. The next process will be eight weeks of road patrol training, followed by another certification process. If all goes well, Knox and Elsasser will join forces on patrol in Papillion.
Until then, Elsasser plans to take Knox to local schools and other demonstrations to integrate him into the community.
Unlike most K-9 situations where an experienced handler is already in place, Elsasser has been learning the ropes right along with his partner.
“From his end of the leash, he’s brought me along,” he said. “He already had some training, so I’m trying to get caught up to his abilities.
“I knew it would be a lot of hard work and we’ve put in a lot of hours, but no complaints. Like athletics, you can’t just show up and expect to be good. You have to put in the time.”
Elsasser said he has been impressed by the growth in Knox during their training together and how well he has adapted to new situations.
“To see how intelligent he is amazes me,” he said. “Watching him grow and improve on the abilities he has is the enjoyable part.”
With two dogs already at his own home, Elsasser said Knox has transitioned well into a family life that also includes two young children.
“When he’s at work, he’s all business, but at home, he’s very calm,” Elsasser said. “There’s a lot of support for him within the walls of our own house.”
As the relationship progresses, Elsasser is excited for what lies ahead with his new partner.
“Like any dog/owner relationship, you see that bond grow and it’s great having that partner with you,” he said.
“I feel like I’m living a dream every day.”