Bear enjoys his downtime with his tennis ball and his handler, Sergeant Jason Downs. Photo by Natalie Goo.
LILY O’CONNOR | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Many people know Butler’s mascot, Blue IV, but there is another dog on campus who, just like Blue, loves making appearances at campus events. Bear —the Butler University Police Department’s (BUPD) K-9 — is an Explosive Ordinance Detection (EOD) canine. His primary job on campus is to perform bomb sweeps with Sergeant Jason Downs, BUPD’s EOD K-9 trainer/handler, before every men’s basketball game, football game and high-profile event at Clowes Memorial Hall.
Bear is a 4-year-old English labrador retriever who started working for BUPD in August of 2020 after Marcus — the dog that started Butler’s K-9 unit with Downs — retired in May of 2020. Both dogs live with Downs, along with their other dog brother, Chewy.
Bear was 11 months old when he started his training, which was all completed with Downs. Bear is certified in bomb detection through the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) and American Working Dog Association. He also has passed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Odor Recognition Test.
Bear and Downs search every crevice of a building a few hours before any fans or media enter the facility for a game or event. Wesley Nader, assistant athletic director for events and facilities, and Jacob Largent, the athletic department assistant director of internal operations, both appreciate having a bomb dog right on campus to do the bomb sweeps at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
“Sergeant Downs will walk through the concourse, through the main arena and even downstairs to make sure that we’re keeping everyone in the building safe,” Nader said. “One of our highest priorities, obviously, throughout a game day is safety of our fans and patrons. Everybody working wants to make sure that everything is extremely safe.”
Occasionally, Bear helps IMPD with pursuits and searches. Since IMPD now has their own bomb dog, Butler’s K-9 unit is only called if it is more convenient for Bear and Downs to get to a scene.
“Recently, [Bear and I] assisted IMPD with a pursuit,” Downs said. “We weren’t originally involved in the pursuit, but at the end of it, [the suspect] crashed, and we ended up finding a gun.”
When Bear is not doing bomb sweeps or assisting IMPD, he enjoys walking around campus with Downs, attending BUPD community outreach events and playing with his tennis ball. During the men’s basketball and football games, Bear and Downs stand at gate four of Hinkle Fieldhouse. According to Downs, Bear loves interacting with students, faculty, staff and community members at the games.
“At the TSA, you do not touch the dogs because they’re working,” Downs said. “When they’re standing there at the airport, they’re actually searching people … [The fans] have been searched and have gone through metal detectors, so that’s why I’m not so strict on them petting Bear. Plus, it is an opportunity for them to get to know him and be able to come up and ask me questions.”
Katie Stanley, a senior psychology major and president of the Student Government Association, is just one of the many students who come to visit Bear during the games and other BUPD events. She has built a relationship with Bear and Downs through SGA and BUPD collaborations.
“I think it’s the cutest thing in the world when dogs get the wiggles, and Bear has the cutest, most intense wiggles that I’ve ever seen,” Stanley said. “His little face is always so squishy. I think he’s definitely a contender for cutest dog on campus.”
Nader and Largent are big fans of Bear and like to hang out with him during the games. They are grateful for the opportunity to build a relationship with Bear and Downs.
“[Bear is] a very, very nice addition to the Hinkle Fieldhouse,” Largent said. “Aside from Blue, Bear is the best canine friend you can ask for … It is a highlight of a game to see Bear in the building because not only do we know that it is safe, but it’s also the fact that he is a good companion to have.”