Photos By Hillary Ehlen
Blue the three-year-old Belgian Malinois can sit, stay and get the bad guys.
Blue is no ordinary dog, he’s an essential member of the Fargo Police Department’s Canine (K9) unit. This unit is valuable in many areas but especially useful in locating easily-concealed drugs, suspects and evidence.
Working alongside Blue is his handler, Officer Sam Bollman. Officer Bollman has been with the Fargo Police Department since 2010 and has been working with Blue since the summer of 2017. “I was always interested in K9 and started by shadowing the current handlers at the time. When an opportunity came available in 2017, I applied for it,” he said.
Blue has come a long way from where he was bred. He was born in Slovakia, one of the many countries in Europe that has a community that excels in breeding working and sport dogs. Next, Blue came into the hands of Pennsylvania-based canine training company Shallow Creek Kennels. Shallow Creek Kennels travels to Europe every six weeks to shop around for good working dog candidates and then purchases them and brings them to the United States to begin training. After the Fargo Police Department selected Blue from Shallow Creek Kennels, Officer Bollman spent six weeks training 24/7 with Blue.
Being a K9 handler for the police is no walk in the park, it’s a 24/7/365 commitment. Officer Bollman shared, “It’s a ton of work. Our dogs come home with us. When I get ready for work, I get dressed at home and I grab Blue, he jumps in the back of the car and we head in.” Even on days where Officer Bollman isn’t on the clock, he still cares for Blue, exercising, feeding and picking up after him.
A normal shift for these two involves standard calls for service. Officer Bollman is a normal police officer, he just responds to calls with a dog in his backseat. “I spend more time with him than I do my family,” joked Officer Bollman. While on patrol, Blue keeps him company and they’ve bonded while being part of responding to calls where Blue’s skills are needed.
The Fargo Police Department currently has three dogs in their K9 unit, Blue, Falco and Uno. Officer Bollman said, “Dogs are a lot like people, where they have personalities and things that they’re better at than their coworkers. Our dogs are different ages and, just like with people, some more experienced employees may be better at certain things.” Blue, in particular, is skilled at narcotics detection, so that’s what he gets to do the most.
Outside of the office, these dogs serve a role in bringing the community together. These dogs often can be seen at public community events, schools, demonstrations and more. Having a friendly canine face can build a bridge between the public and police officers. Beyond public appearances, Blue has become known in the community thanks to his Instagram account, @k9.blue. “K9 is so interesting to people, the public loves it, officers love it. But it’s one of those things that people don’t get to see very often. So one of my goals was to give people a little window into what we do,” said Officer Bollman about deciding to start the account. He also noted the account serves as a way to document their time together.
From the start, the public has had involvement in Blue’s life, so it only makes sense that there is a social media account allowing the community to follow along with his daily duties. In 2017, when the police department first purchased him, they ran a Facebook post asking for suggestions on what he should be named. Officer Bollman said they were blown away by the over 1,500 of responses they received. Once they narrowed down the name options to just three top-picks, they ran a poll and the community voted on their top choice — Blue.
As a dog-lover, Officer Bollman has several things he enjoys about being a canine handler. One of these things is getting to see Blue in action and doing what he was trained to do. “It’s about being that important link in the chain of solving a crime or helping an incident. We’ve, oftentimes, tried everything else and now we’re going to try this. It gets us over the hump in a case where we normally wouldn’t be able to progress any further but because the dog finds something, now we can take that case so much further.”
Officer Bollman added, “They are such a powerful locating tool for drugs and people. I’ve been doing it for two years now and it still makes me smile when I see it because it still amazes me how well it works.”