For the fourth year in a row, Bismarck and Fargo K-9 units went head to head at Haaland field to see who would be top dog. The annual Midwestern Canine Competition drew both newcomers and veterans to the stands.
“I know all the dogs’ names,” spectator Terry Richter said. “Mace is kind of a favorite.”
Terry Richter has attended the competition every year. He says the event shows the community a side of the police department they might not always see — especially in light of national protests calling for defunding departments.
“It brings people together, helps people see another side of the police department,” Richter said.
Four dogs from Bismarck and four from the Fargo department are competing today for the title of Iron Dog.
Fargo Patrol Officer Jennifer Gustafson says most of the dogs competing are Belgian Malinois, which are lighter and more agile than German Shephards. Gustafson’s dog Toby is one of just two in the state capable of finding bombs, and Fargo’s first bomb dog.
“We were all in town for training and this was just a fun time to see what the dogs can do and show people that even though they’re great tools, they just love being out here and doing this stuff,” Gustafson said.
While many spectators have shown up year after year, today was 12-year-old Isabella Walsh’s first time at the competition. She’s there to cheer on her uncle, whose dog, Mason, is competing.
“I like watching the dogs grabbing onto the people in the suits,” Walsh said.
Those suits serve an important purpose. A bite from a Belgian Malinois can take 200 pounds per square inch to the arm, which is why handlers were wearing thick bite suits for protection.
Each dog ran through multiple scenarios, and by the end of it, one department got to go home with bragging rights and a plaque.
This year, the first place honor went to Sam Bollman and his dog from Fargo.