Meet the Officers of the Asheville Police K9 Unit

Get to know the dynamic duos behind the badge.

Meet the Officers of the Asheville Police K9 Unit

Senior Officer Muse & Yago


Human’s name: Scott Muse
Occupation: Senior K9 Handler

K9’s Name: Yago
Breed: Belgian Malinois
Nickname: Little Hammerhead
Occupational Specialty: Obedience, Bite Work, and Apprehension


Can you describe your relationship with Yago? What does that mean to you?

It means everything to me. It’s a very close relationship: We live together at home. We come together to work. We’re always together, 24 hours a day. He sleeps at home in the crate, so we are together all of the time. It’s a very close bond. I speak a little bit of dog and he speaks a little bit of human, so we definitely understand one another. It’s just a very close, inseparable bond.

How long have you been working alongside Yago?

I got Yago in October of this year [2015], so we are pretty new together. He’s the third dog that I’ve had to work with.

Do you have a favorite memory with Yago or another dog of the past?

My last dog Boris is probably my most memorable dog. I had him about 8 years, and he saved my tail many times. He caught an armed robber in the woods. He actually went in and took the person’s gun, brought me the gun, and then went back in and got the guy – it’s a pretty memorable time. That dog seized millions of dollars worth of drugs. Just a phenomenal track record … I could go on for days talking about that dog. He’s definitely my favorite!

What’s the average length of time an officer is with a dog?

It varies. Most dogs would go anywhere from 7 years to 10 or 11 years. It just kind of depends on their health. As long as they are healthy and happy, we’ll keep working them. They have a very hard time retiring because of the drive. We select dogs that have a very high drive and they’re just not happy unless they’re out having a purpose and doing something. He [Boris] is in retirement land now, so he’s living the good life!



Officer Zeigler & Zar


Human’s Name: John Zeigler
Occupation: K9 Handler
Hobbies: Cooking
Special Skill: Automotive Work

K9’s Name: Zar
Breed: German Shepherd
Age: 2
Occupational Specialty: Tracking, Apprehension, and Narcotics Detection
Favorite Toy: Tennis Ball
Personality: Eager to Please


What led you to join the Asheville Police Department’s K-9 unit?

Police K9s have always interested me.

How long have you been working alongside Zar?

2 years.

Can you describe your relationship with Zar?

A trusting bond! We have great respect for one another, but Zar is not my “pet.” It’s a completely different relationship.

What is life like with Zar at home?

We wake up around 2 pm – we work nights – play, and then eat. On days off, Zar gets to lounge on the couch, do light training, and play just like a human worker would. My other dog Alfred [a Corgi] bosses Zar around too.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Playing with and training Zar.

Are there any common misconceptions about the K9-officer relationship that you’d like to address/debunk?

That the dogs are evil/dangerous – the dogs are trained just like any other dog and are loving animals.



Officer Rodriguez & Zeke


Human’s Name: Mario Rodriguez
Occupation: Police Officer and K9 Handler

K9’s Name: Zeke
Breed: Belgian Malinois & German Shepherd Mix
Age: 6 months
Occupational Specialty: Evidence/Article Retrieval and Tracking


How long have you been working alongside Zeke?

6 months.

Can you describe your relationship with Zeke?

Zeke lives at home with me. He is one of us – an officer. We build trust with one another, similar to a human relationship. He is the sweetest thing ever and acts just like a kid. When he listens he gets rewarded, when he doesn’t, he gets yelled at. Zeke is a big goof ball off the clock and loves to play, but he knows the difference between home and work. At work, Zeke is obedient and observant. He is a great communicator and always anticipates my next move.

What does a typical day at work look like?

As soon as Zeke sees my uniform go on, he knows it is time to work. Throughout the day, we answer calls for service: alarms, breaking/entering, exposed buildings, etc.

What is Zeke’s favorite job to do?

Zeke’s favorite job is retrieving articles and tracking evidence. He can find tiny items in the middle of a wide open space. When he finds an article with human odor, he will bring it back – not all of the dogs can do this.



Officer Rice & Merlin


Human’s name: Liz Rice
Occupation: Patrol Officer and K9 Handler

K9’s Name: Merlin
Breed: Black Labrador Retriever
Age: 7
Occupational Specialty: Detects and Locates Explosives
Favorite Toy: Ball
Personality: Energetic and Motivated


How long have you been working alongside Merlin?

Almost 2 years.

Can you describe your relationship with Merlin?

Merlin, he’s not a mean dog, but he’s not a super friendly dog. And what I mean is he doesn’t go around people and say “Hey, pet me!” He really has a very hard drive to work. So when I get him out of his kennel, he’s like “What am I doing? I’m working!” He does come up to me and let me pet him in the evenings and stuff. I’ve had him for over a year and a half now and I see as time has gone by, he does come up to me a bit more and want some affection, but he is just not an affectionate dog. He is not mean by any means towards people, but he just likes to work, which is good for a working dog … he works really hard. We are coming up on 4 years that we’ve had Merlin. He was a military dog before and what I understand is he got too hot in the field working. I’ve heard he was in Afghanistan when this happened, so his black coat in the sun was not good. He did not have a handler for about a year before I got him, so Scott Muse, our senior handler, got him back in shape and got him working. When I got him – I’m lucky – he knew what he was doing. I just had to figure out my part … He’s a good dog, he’s very well trained.

Merlin is a Labrador Retriever, right? From an outsider perspective, that breed is not the first that comes to mind as a police dog?

Yes, he’s a black lab. He is our explosives dog. Labs are very common to use as explosives dogs. He’s the only Black Lab we have.

What’s your favorite memory with Merlin or with the other officers?

Merlin was the only explosives dog in the area for a while I believe … Buncombe county has one and Waynesville PD just got an explosives dog. So for a while, I was actually kind of busy with any bomb threat or anything like that around the area. I’ve been to McDowell county, Waynesville, and Haywood county. I’ve even gone over to Isothermal Community College [in South Carolina] to assist them. We get to travel a lot and that’s what I like. We go to the Bristol Raceway for the Nascar races and we work that weekend, so it’s kind of like a getaway: I’m working, but it’s somewhere else; something different. That’s definitely my favorite. We have a good time. We train, we do what we need to do, and we have fun too.



Officer Bunn & Boss


Human’s name: Wilson Bunn
Occupation: Police Officer
Hobbies: Martial Arts and Reading

K9’s Name: Boss
Breed: German Shepherd
Age: 2-½
Occupational Specialty: Drug Seeker and Bad-Guy Biter
Favorite Toy: Yellow Ball


What led you to join the Asheville Police Department’s K-9 Unit?

I love being part of a team, assisting other officers, and I love dogs.

How long have you been working alongside Boss?

6 months.

Can you describe your relationship with Boss?

BFFs! Working with Boss is kind of like “bring your friend to work day,” every day. We hang out at the house and he stays inside with the family a lot. It really is just like having a friend that stays with you all of the time. We do a lot of stuff together.

Even outside of work?

Yeah, he’s always there. We have a kennel and he stays in it sometimes, but he’s in the house a lot because I want him highly socialized with my family and with my daughter and he does really well.

What’s your favorite memory with Boss?

One of the most memorable was the first time we did bite training with him. He’s a big dog, but he’s really friendly, easygoing, and loves people. When he latches on to that bite suit, he’s different; he’s a machine when he’s doing that – it’s eye opening. It’s like a switch gets flipped and he goes into prey drive and he’s just a different beast. It makes me feel safe!

Are there any common misconceptions about the K9-officer relationship that you’d like to address/debunk?

The dogs aren’t mean, they are just dogs with high levels of training.



Officer Dodd & Xander(not pictured)


Human’s name: Adam Dodd
Occupation: K9 Officer

K9’s Name: Xander
Breed: Belgian Malinois
Occupational Specialty: Apprehension and narcotics search


Did the Department pair you up with Xander?

Yes they paired us up when we first got the dogs in 2014. It was done based on the dog’s personalities and the handler’s personality and what they thought would work.

How long have you been working alongside Xander?

We are getting close to 2 years now. We started the program in 2014.

And does he come home with you?

He does. He stays at my house. We have kennels at my house.

Do you have any other pets in the house?

I have a black lab and a cat.

Does Xander work well with the other pets?

Xander leaves the black lab alone. She is older and I think he knows to leave her alone. He would love to get a hold of the cat. So, I don’t let him near it. He doesn’t like the cat.

Can you tell me about a time that Xander has caught a bad guy?

The first track he ever went on after training. We had a subject stopped on suspicion of DWI and the suspect ran behind a business after leaving his car on Patton Avenue in the middle of traffic. Xander tracked to him and that was his first catch.

Is Xander trained specifically for catching criminals or drug searches?

Both apprehension and narcotics search. He is also trained to locate articles with human odor on them.

Would you trade Xander for a human partner?

Oh no, I’d keep the dog.


We would like to offer a special "Thank You" to the men and women of the Asheville Police Department for inviting us to have a look at their K9 Officers in action and for giving us the chance to interview each officer one on one. Their hard work is greatly appreciated. It was a fascinating experience for the staff here at Dog Tag Art.