K-9 officer joins the Tallmadge police force

Mattis reports for duty

LAURA FREEMAN
Reporter

TALLMADGE – K-9 officer Mattis is reporting for duty.

Mattis and his handler, Officer Nate Ickes, graduated May 15 from Van Der Hous Gill K-9 Academy in Wapakoneta and are now currently working the road together.

Mattis, a 2-year-old German Shepard, was imported from Germany and hand selected by Ickes and Sgt. Steve Miller of the Stow Police Department. They tested 15 dogs, but Ickes knew Mattis was the dog he wanted.

“I saw everything I wanted in him,” he said. “His willingness to play, drop the ball and the drive to find the ball, his socialization with other people and how he walked around kids while there. He was good around the kids.”

K-9 police dogs are a great community relations tool and Ickes said he was drawn to Mattis because he was friendly with kids and he could take him into the schools.

Police Chief Ron Williams agrees.

“Anything we can do positively and non-enforcement to promote a positive relationship with the community is incredibly important, and the dog is part of that.”

The K-9 officer is important because he provides a layer of safety to the officers, Williams said.

It gives officers a way to search a dark space, building or chase a suspect, he said. The dog can sniff out drugs and track a suspect.

The public can see Mattis at community demonstrations and on social media, he said.

“The dog becomes the figure head for the department,” Williams said. “People love dogs.”

Mattis was certified though the state of Ohio as a dual purpose K-9 for special purpose and patrol and can identify narcotics such as meth, heroin, cocaine, crack and their derivatives; tracking; building and area search; controlled aggression, which is bite work and handler protection; and article search.

“We use the dogs for scent work and we’re doing night training to play fetch in the dark on the football field,” Ickes said. “He has to use his nose.”

Mattis still has a lot of pup in him, Ickes said. He’s very curious about things and what they are and if they’re safe.

“He saw a sand bucket, and he crept up to it to see what it was,” he said. “He has a lot of growing up do.”

Because of COVID-19, Ickes and Mattis work two weeks on and two weeks off, so it’s been a slow start.

It’s been quiet at night with places closed but that should change in the middle of the month when more places open up, Ickes said.

“Mattis and I have not been able to get into much as of right now due to the restrictions still in place at the department and the city,” he said.

When Mattis isn’t working, he’s sleeping, his favorite activity.

“His drive is high when he’s training or working,” Ickes said. “He wants to work. He wants to be out there. He wants to partake in it.”

They trained 40 hours a week at the academy, but every day Mattis and Ickes do something, whether it’s obedience, playing ball, searches or bite work.

Ickes considers Mattis a good partner.

“I can count on him,” Ickes said. “He can count on me. I love the companionship.”

Mattis replaces Tallmadge Police K-9 Axel, who was diagnosed with cancer and died in December after serving the community more than seven years. Ickes was his handler and carries over his experience in training Mattis.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com