Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2006 | Features

Doggone Crime Fighter: J.T. Egli and Aro

By IAM Staff

The latest recruit to the UI Police Department boasts quite a résumé—bomb squad work in the Middle East, military training, and experience in private security. How does this elite crime fighter relax when off-duty? By gnawing tennis balls into shreds.

Aro, who joined the department in October as the university's first K-9 officer, is a two-year-old German Shepherd. Working with his handler, Officer J.T. Egli, Aro conducted a bomb sweep of Kinnick Stadium before the last game of the season against Minnesota. As well as patrolling campus and dealing with any UI emergencies, Egli and Aro also assist the Johnson County Metro Bomb Squad and other local law enforcement agencies. 

Department of Homeland Security funding helped pay for about 75 percent of Aro's purchase. A local vet donates medical care, while a pet shop takes care of Aro's food and grooming. The tennis balls—Aro chomps through one or two a day—come from the Hawkeye men's and women's tennis teams, who donate their used game and practice balls.

Off-duty, Aro lives with Egli and his family. "He goes crazy when he sees me come out of the house in my uniform," says Egli, a third-generation police officer following in the footsteps of his dog-handler father. "Aro loves working; he loves being here."

Aro's "office" is in the back seat of a specially adapted squad car. He also spends time in the squad room with other UI police officers, who pet him and throw his tennis ball around in spare moments.  Public reaction to the campus's furry, four-legged crime fighter has been just as positive. "People like him," says Egli. "He's a pretty personable dog and very friendly."

Just don't try to get him to sit. Apart from the fact that he's been trained to respond only to Egli, Aro was born and raised in the former Czechoslovakia. Although his skills are impressive, he doesn't "speak" English. To communicate with his new partner, Egli had to learn the Czech words for commands.