Fremont police officer Brianna Ryan had enough reason to believe the car she’d pulled over contained drugs.

So she sought assistance from a furry consultant of sorts: a chocolate Labrador retriever named Apollo.

Ryan is the K9 officer at the Fremont Police Department and since September she and Apollo have gone on deployments in a battle against drugs.

“He has a good schnozz,” Ryan said, referring to Apollo’s drug-detecting nose.

The 3 ½-year-old drug dog has served on the local police force since 2017. But when his first handler Fremont Officer Dominic Savio went to a new position, Apollo needed a new partner.

That’s where Ryan came in.

“I’ve always loved animals,” Ryan said. “I wanted originally to be a vet and then my dad was in the military and I wanted to be in the military, so I had those two interests and put them together with law enforcement and being a K9 handler.

“When I started in law enforcement, this was my end goal. This is what I wanted to do.”

Ryan and Apollo already were acquainted, because she fed and let the dog go outside when Savio was out of town.

“We had a bit of a relationship prior to me taking over,” Ryan said of Apollo.

After Savio was promoted, Ryan applied for the position of K9 officer.

Ryan and her husband, Brett, married in July 2018 and she became Apollo’s handler the next month.

“He (Brett) knew that’s what I wanted and was very excited for me,” she said.

Before Apollo, the Ryans already had two golden retrievers at home.

“We were adding another dog so that was kind of a lot for him to process, but he and Apollo and all of us have adjusted extremely well,” she said. “They all get along and we couldn’t imagine Apollo not being in our family.”

Ryan and Apollo went for training in Bellevue to become certified through the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center.

Apollo, who’d previously gone through the training, accelerated in it. Much of the training involved Ryan’s learning about the dog and how to know if he’s found a drug.

The dog is trained to detect heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine.

“The training guys up at Bellevue call him, ‘Happy.’ They always say they want him. He’s got a good nose. He’s good at what he does,” she said.

Ryan was in the training for about two months. She worked with nine other handlers who were certifying their dogs.

“It was an awesome experience,” she said. “I got to sit and watch all those other dogs, too, and learn from them — seeing different training perspectives, learning from these other handlers and the trainers.”

Every other week, the two go for training in Bellevue with multiple agencies, including the Nebraska State Patrol and Dodge County Sheriff’s Department.

“We do trainings at least two or three times a month, where he does about four or five training finds to keep him up to par,” she said.

Back in Fremont, Apollo goes on three to four or more deployments a month.

A deployment can occur when an officer has pulled over a car and has enough reasonable, articulable suspicion to use the dog and isn’t getting consent from the driver for a search.

The officer can contact the dispatcher or Ryan, who will come to the scene with Apollo.

“I’ll take Apollo out and we’ll start a deployment,” she said. “I’ll run him around the car at least three times and if he indicates there’s drugs we can get in the car and search it and he’s done his job.”

Apollo helps the III Corps Drug Task Force with investigations.

He also can be involved in what’s called a School Sniff. For instance, if a principal or some other official is concerned about drugs in a school, they may ask for Apollo to be brought in to sniff the lockers. Ryan and a handler from the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department recently went to an area school.

Ryan and Apollo work nights and even when they’re off-duty, the two may be called in — even if it’s 4 a.m. or 10 a.m.

“They obviously don’t expect me to be on-call 24-7. It’s just a matter of not turning down every call I get,” she said.

The two have been working together since last fall.

And Ryan’s first deployment with Apollo occurred when she had enough reasonable suspicion during a traffic stop.

“I had enough to pull him (Apollo) out and run him on the car,” she said. “And we ended up getting drugs out of the car.”

Ryan has high praise for Apollo.

“He’s awesome at what he does and he’s also awesome at coming home and turning off his work,” she said.

Apollo knows when Ryan is getting ready for work and stays right by her side, following her throughout the house.

“When we get home, he’s just like one of my other dogs — he’s carefree, loving,” she said.

And he’s protective.

Even when her husband gives her a hug, Apollo sits nearby watching to make sure everything is OK.

Ryan has enjoyed all of the new experiences she’s had with Apollo.

“We’re pretty close,” she said. “We’re with each other every single day. He’s at home with me. My other dogs stay at home, but he comes to work with me. It’s me and him in the car at 3 a.m. We’re pretty good friends.”

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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