IU athletic trainer helps keep bomb-sniffing police dog in top shape

K-9 Indy was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his shoulder and dysplasia in his elbow. His therapy comes from the same trainer that treats Hoosier athletes.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A long-time athletic trainer for the men’s basketball team at Indiana University is finding himself busy with a new “client.”

“Indy” is an explosives detection K-9 with the Indiana University Police Department. He works alongside his partner, Officer Rob Botts, protecting Memorial Stadium and Assembly Hall.

“Probably more than 250 deployments to Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium,” said Botts. “He knows I need to be looking in these specific places.”

The partnership between Botts and Indy goes back several years, when Botts first received Indy at just six months old.

Just before his first birthday, Indy was first certified with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“At the time, that was the youngest dog to have ever completed the AFT certification,” said Botts.

“He knows I need to be looking in these specific places,” Botts said.

But lately, Indy’s work day starts inside with therapy.

“For him, we’re using it mostly in the healing mode,” said IU athletic trainer Tim Garl.

Back in December 2023, Botts noticed Indy wasn’t jumping into the patrol car like usual and he was slower on the job. A veterinarian determined the 5-year-old dog had osteoarthritis in his shoulder and dysplasia in his elbow.

Botts says the treatment is a low-level light therapy that happens to be available in the basketball training room, right next to the same athletes Indy protects on game day.

“Obviously, it’s not uncommon for us to be in here getting treatment right next to our star basketball player, so it’s kind of a neat situation,” Botts said.

Garl is the one caring for Indy, a star athletic trainer who has cared for IU’s best basketball players for more than 40 years.

“We feed him to keep him still while I apply this therapy to his shoulder,” Garl said. “He doesn’t feel anything. He just likes to eat.”

At this point, Indy comes in for treatment about once or twice a week.

“I’ve not seen a simple limp, I’ve not seen any hesitation getting in or out of the car,” Botts said. “Stairs are no problem, jumping on things, no problem.”

“He is not distracted by discomfort,” says Garl. “He’s walking normally.”

Botts said, for IUPD, game days can last up to 13 hours for him and Indy.

“That’s why it’s important to keep him as healthy as possible so that he’s thinking about what he’s doing, rather than, ‘My shoulder hurts,'” he said. “Hopefully, we’re going to get another three or four years out of him.”

For Garl, he says he’s happy to help IUPD.

“We have a great relationship with University Police and the K9 officers that are there,” said Garl. “The police officers, and even Indy, they help protect us and take care of us.”

With more than four decades inside Assembly Hall, Garl says it relationships like this one that keep him coming back.

“I enjoy the basketball,” said Garl. “I enjoy the players, and I enjoy the people. I’m always around young people. It keeps me young.”

Garl and Botts agree: this unlikely partnership is something special.

“I’m a dog person,” said Garl. “We’ve always had dogs in our family.”

“He (Indy) benefits from some of the best care that a dog has ever had, so he’s lucky,” Botts said. “I just hope he understands it.”

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