At 83 pounds, Vince -- a two-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador Retriever -- is the newest addition to the University Police Department (UPD) and currently the only active explosive ordnance detection canine unit in North San Diego County. Defying the stereotypical canine breeds often linked with law enforcement like German Shepherds, which are primarily used for suspect apprehension, Vince is trained to detect specific odors associated with explosives.

Vince’s journey to becoming a detection police dog at Cal State San Marcos began nearly a thousand miles away in a homeless animal shelter in Idaho. One week before Vince was scheduled to be euthanized he was rescued by a canine handler who noticed potential in Vince. In order to be an effective detection dog for explosives, narcotics, or cadavers, a dog must have a strong drive to play, retrieve, hunt, and work at high intensity levels without tiring easily. Vince breezed through the initial assessment and began a year-long training program with San Francisco-based Police Sergeant David Dorn, who rescues and trains canine detection dogs.

Once he completed the extensive training program, Vince was assigned to the police squad at UC Berkeley, but shortly thereafter failed a physical exam which tested him positive for heartworms. For a second time, Vince was in jeopardy of being euthanized. Diagnosed with stage one, heartworm treatment is risky and involves several series of deep intramuscular injections which typically leaves an animal lethargic, diminishing the very drive that makes a dog an ideal police canine. While undergoing treatment, Vince was replaced by another detection dog at UC Berkeley. To the surprise of the veterinarian and Dorn, Vince made a full recovery, seemingly unscathed by the treatment process.

In fall of 2010, the University Police Department at CSUSM began to explore options for acquiring an Explosive Ordnance Detection (EOD) dog. Officer Ray Derouin, who would become the University’s first canine handler, led the search effort and contacted Sergeant Dorn in San Francisco, where he learned about Vince.

“Over the last few decades, university campuses have become highly visible targets for terrorism and acts of violence,” explained Officer Derouin. “In these emergencies every minute counts. By having an EOD canine, we can respond to calls regarding suspicious packages or activity on our campus and in the community and quickly determine the validity of an explosive ordnance threat.”

After two grueling months at the training facility, learning dog obedience techniques, canine first aid and trauma, and running drills and odor recognition exercises with Vince, Officer Derouin and Vince became CSUSM’s first certified EOD K9 unit. In addition to serving the campus, Vince is also helping fulfill a vital niche as the only active EOD police dog in North San Diego County. Since joining the UPD in December, Vince has already been deployed to the line of duty twice – responding to concerns of a parked vehicle at MiraCosta College containing explosives, and responding to a suspicious package discovered in Kellogg Library. He has also worked at a handful of high profile events on campus, and will be on duty for CSUSM’s commencement ceremonies in May.

To keep his skills fresh, Vince completes daily detection exercises and trains weekly with fellow San Diego Harbor canines and their police officer handlers. When not on duty in his canine-outfitted police SUV, Vince lives with Officer Derouin and his family in San Marcos.

“Vince has an incredibly playful and friendly disposition,” said UPD Chief Ron Hackenberg. “He is a great ambassador and addition for our police department as we continue to be vigilant and ensure that safety remains a top priority on our campus and in the community.”

After two grueling months at the training facility, learning dog obedience techniques, canine first aid and trauma, and running drills and odor recognition exercises with Vince, Officer Derouin and Vince became CSUSM’s first certified EOD K9 unit.