Abused as a puppy, UC Berkeley’s new police dog finds second life on campus

Meet Obi, UCPD’s new police dog. (UC Berkeley video by Perla Shaheen. UC Berkeley photos by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Canine Officer Obi, a 14-month-old Springer Spaniel, started work last month as UC Berkeley’s new explosive-detecting dog. Obi was abused as a puppy in Wyoming, before a police dog trainer rescued him and brought him to Berkeley.

Officer Salvador Lopez and his EOD K9, Obi, talk with passerby in Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Now Obi lives with UCPD Officer Sal Lopez, who works with the pup all day and takes him home each night.

“He was treated very bad, abused physically, emotionally and deprived of food,” Lopez said.

EOD K9 Obi waits with his handler, Officer Salvador Lopez at UC Berkeley on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

At first Obi had trouble adjusting. “He was very skittish, he didn’t want to be petted. Large crowds still overwhelm him at times,” Lopez said.

But as his trainers gave Obi attention and praise, he started coming out of his shell.

EOD K9 Obi works with his handler, Officer Salvador Lopez, as they walk through UC Berkeley's California Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Obi’s favorite activity is playing with the ball carrying the fake smell of explosives used to keep his nose in top-notch form. Police use Obi to check for explosives before major events like football games or concerts.

UC Berkeley EOD K9 Obi stands outside of his handler's car at UC Berkeley on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Obi spends his weekends playing in the backyard with Lopez, his wife and their 1-year-old son. “I know my son, every time he wakes up in the morning, he has to go see Obi,” Lopez said. “Obi has a whole big yard.”

But Obi knows it is time for work when Lopez puts on his special police collar and vest.

EOD K9 Obi and his handler Officer Salvador Lopez walk through Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Lopez thinks Obi works extra hard because he was abused as a puppy.

UC Berkeley Explosive Ordnance Disposal K9 Obi sits for a photo at the California Memorial Stadium on campus Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

“With Obi, he has that little extra; it is hard to explain, but when you give him that reward you can tell he is really excited about it, he really appreciates it,” Lopez said. “He does his work with an extra little bit because he knows he’s going to get to play with you after it is over.”

Contact Will Kane at willkane@berkeley.edu