UW-Madison police welcome newest K9

The UW-Madison Police Department will welcome a new officer to its force — one that specializes in narcotics detection and human tracking and has a nose for sniffing out crime.

K9 Officer Kobalt and his handler, UW police Officer Nikki Zautner, are on their way home from a six-week intensive training program at Shallow Creek Kennels in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, a kennel the department has used before to select dogs, said police spokesman Marc Lovicott.

Kobalt is a pure-bred German shepherd from the Netherlands and was selected by Zautner to be her partner. She chose the name Kobalt as a take on the traditional blue uniforms worn by police officers, Lovicott said.

“She was just drawn to him,” Lovicott said.

Kobalt will spend time with Zautner getting used to the department and the community when they arrive in Madison, Lovicott said. His training will continue as he learns to stay calm and focused in the often chaotic atmosphere of a college campus.

Once Kobalt acclimates to his new surroundings, he will be assisting on calls related to narcotics and human tracking, using his heightened sense of smell to detect drugs and follow a scent trail.

Other law enforcement agencies will have some interaction with Kobalt, as well.

“They’ll be getting up to speed and going out on calls not just in our community but in the city and the county as well,” Lovicott said.

UWPD has two other K9 officers. Maya joined the department in 2013, and Ritter came on last year. Both are trained in explosive detection and human tracking.

Maya is partnered with Sgt. Nic Banuelos. When off duty, she lounges in the sun, plays with her little sister, Ricochet, and picks up toys from around the house to stack them.

Ritter works with Officer Justin Zurbuchen and loves working at Badger football games — he’s all about getting attention.

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