Diamonds in the ruff: The APD K9 Unit

The K9 Unit’s Instagram account has over 5,600 followers


(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

By Abigail Charpentier, News Editor

“Macaroni. Pizza. Chair. Zit.”

One of the most well-known members of the Amherst Police Department quietly stood in the community room on a Thursday evening with officer Matthew Frydryk. He didn’t move until hearing that fourth word spoken in Dutch. When prompted in this language, he would run around, jump and play like any other dog.

Marvin, a German shepherd Belgian Malinois mix, was born in Hungary before coming to the United States in 2017. Since then, officer Frydryk has been working alongside him to serve the Amherst community.

Both Marvin and Dash, the other German shepherd, are dual-purpose dogs and make up the Amherst K9 Unit. For their first few months in the Unit, they focused primarily on patrol work –tracking people, building searches, area searches, article searches, evidence recovery and handler protection.

The two are also narcotics dogs that can find heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and anything that smells similar, including ecstasy.

Capt. Ronald Young said the dogs have similar duties but having two of them “allows us to have a K9 officer on duty over multiple shifts, multiple times per day,” in a MassLive article.

Through grants from the Stanton Foundation, the Amherst Police Department was able to create the K9 Unit in September 2014. With the help of the K9 Establishment Grant for $25,000, APD purchased Dash, originally from the Netherlands, from Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania. On top of buying the dog, the grant allowed the station to outfit a cruiser with a kennel and get a kennel for officer Thomas Clark’s house and training.

Three years later, APD applied again for a Stanton Foundation grant through their second dog program, where officer Frydryk was able to adopt Marvin.

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

“He was a green dog and I was a green handler, meaning he knew nothing and I knew nothing,” Frydryk said. “Basically, we were kind of new together.”

Marvin’s adoption cost APD around $7,500. Along with money used from the Stanton Grant, Frydryk is always looking for other grants and has held fundraisers in the past. Other expenses are vet care, training equipment, toys, leashes and food.

“He’s very small. He’s only about 60 pounds. He’s very skinny. But sometimes he eats like six cups of food today,” he said.

The application for the grants were non-competitive and simple, asking what the department would use the dog for and information about the dog’s handler.

“Basically, [the founder of the Stanton foundation] was really for the dogs. That’s why he’s doing dog parks, that’s why he’s doing canines, basically he gives us all that money,” Frydryk said. “So all these departments can now have canines, because, like I said, it’s kind of difficult to find money for canines and find money in the budget. So, he’s given great money so they can start the canine units.”

The Stanton Foundation explains how “The first [dog program] is designed to cover the start-up costs (such as acquiring and training the dog) associated with establishing a K9 unit in a department without one. The second police K9 program is designed to cover the costs of adding a second canine to police departments with a history of success with an existing K9 unit.”

At Shallow Creek Kennels, officers along with the Kennel’s master trainer will test dogs’ hunting drive by throwing balls into a pile of tires and see how easily they are startled by bringing them to a room with loud noises and shiny surfaces. After finding the dog that was right for him and the police station, Frydryk adopted Marvin.

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

After bringing Marvin back to Amherst, the first step was for Frydryk and the dog to start bonding with each other before beginning the training to become a police dog and police dog handler. They started the 10-week patrol school in March, and in October they started narcotics school, which was another four to five weeks.

All of the training commands Marvin has learned have been in Dutch so that he “won’t confuse them with normal words.” Coming from Hungary, Marvin was familiar with a command or two in Dutch, making him more comfortable in his new environment.

Frydryk explained how the most challenging aspect of the job is the time commitment, but it doesn’t feel like work. On top of working Wednesday to Saturday from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., they have weekly maintenance trainings for eight hours every Tuesday, traveling all around western Mass. Marvin also lives with Frydryk, so they spend every day and night together.

“He’s a living breathing thing. I have to always watch out for him, make sure he gets everything he needs. So it’s always a 24/7 thing,” he said.

The officer has been with the APD for nearly 11 years, loves dogs and enjoys his job as a police officer, so being a canine handler seemed like the perfect fit.

“In my opinion, is the best job you can do,” Frydryk said. “Some people have ‘take your dog to work day;’ that’s my life every day. So it’s actually pretty cool.”

Frydryk also has another German shepherd at home. “Marvin is my work dog. He’s my partner. My other dog is my companion. They’re both my best friends.”

Marvin was named through a contest in the Amherst schools where participants submitted potential names. Ultimately, Frydryk said he chose the name “Marvin” because “when I first got him, his passport said he was from Hungary and I then I thought ‘hungry.’ Then I said, ‘Oh, you must be starving.’ Then I thought, ‘Oh, starving Marvin.’”

Frydryk also runs the Instagram account @AmherstPoliceK9Unit, which has garnered over 5,600 followers since its creation in April 2017.

“It’s tough sometimes because in the media police get a bad rap. It’s very cool to have a positive thing, and it shows dogs in a positive way,” he said. “And it’s also cool to show that police dogs are like normal dogs too. Marvin lives a normal life. He has his work life, but when he goes home he still lives like a normal dog, so it’s kinda cool to show him in that light, like he’s just a dog when we’re not working.”

One of the most popular posts on the Instagram account came as a result of Marvin cutting his paws on ice outside, but still needing to exercise. It was then that Frydryk trained Marvin to run on a treadmill.


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Although APD currently does not have plans to add more canines to the unit, they are open to using more dogs in the future.

“I think at Marvin’s core he has all the values that a police officer should have,” Frydryk said. “He’s very loyal, he’s hard working, he’s very gentle to people and he’s also very protective of his other officers.”

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.