Meet Maplewood’s newest K-9 team

Brix never really looks ferocious.

Even when he’s apprehending suspects or sniffing out illicit drugs, the dog half of Maplewood’s newest K-9 team treats his job like a game.

According to his partner, Officer Joseph Demulling, the 19-month-old from Slovakia does it all for a Kong, a rubber chew toy on a rope.

“It’s always playtime for him,” Demulling said.

Even while Demulling repeatedly instructed Brix to sit, the pup squirmed, anxiously waiting to run after the toy a few feet away on a sidewalk. He shifted his gaze rapidly: Toy. Demulling. Toy. Demulling. Toy!

That intense drive to play is one of the reasons Brix was picked for the job, Demulling said.

Always learning

Demulling has been with the department for about six years and applied to be part of the K-9 unit.

He and Brix finished two months of training late last year at the St. Paul Police Department’s K-9 training center, but it never really stops.

The pair trains at least once a day.

“All the training we do, it’s all fun,” he said. “He gets rewarded with his toy.”

Demulling said he needs to be constantly self-aware, because Brix sometimes picks up on things that Demulling doesn’t deliberately teach him.

For instance, Brix may start responding to the officer moving his leg, instead of an overt vocal command. Then, Demulling has to backtrack, figuring out what he was doing for Brix to make that association.

“They’re always learning and picking something up, whether you want them to or not,” he said.

A close bond

Brix lives with Demulling, the officer’s wife and a female mastiff, a dog that Demulling says is the complete opposite of Brix.

“He’s always running, jumping, barking,” he said. “She’s so low energy. She doesn’t want anything to do with him.”

Brix looks to Demulling for everything, on patrol and at home.

“He’s always watching me and following me around,” he said.

Even playing in the back yard, Demulling said that Brix always keeps an eye on him.

And while Brix may seem harmless when his brown eyes light up as he’s frantically chasing after the Kong and jumping all over Demulling to get the toy, he’s not.

As Police Chief Paul Schnell put it at a swearing-in ceremony this month: “Police service dogs and their human partners enjoy an extremely close bond. Don’t believe me? Try attacking Officer Demulling.”

Another tool

K-9s are force multipliers. The Maplewood Police Department has used the program since 1977, and currently has three K-9 teams.

The service dogs can search a building in a fraction of the time that humans can. They’re often used to protect officers.

“If there’s an unknown, we’ll let the dog go in and check it out first,” Demulling said. “He can sniff the door seam and know if there’s someone in there or not, depending on air movement and the size of the room.”

“Brix will go into the darkest and most dangerous of places to find and engage sometimes violent people in the protection of Officer Demulling and this community,” Schnell said during the recent ceremony.

The St. Paul Police K-9 Foundation and the White Bear Lake Sam’s Club helped fund the new team, which is the eventual replacement for a duo that’s nearing the end of its run, Sgt. Brian Bierdeman and Rebel, according to an announcement on the unit’s webpage.

Sam’s Club employees raised $14,000 for the foundation. About $6,000 helped the Maplewood Police Department cover costs.

“The replacement of one of our K-9 teams was not something we planned this year,” said Deputy Chief Dave Kvam in the statement. “We are very appreciative of Sam’s Club and the St. Paul Police K-9 Foundation for their tremendous generosity.”

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7814 and Follow her at


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