Free public watch party to be held

Hibbing Police Department K-9 Officer Joe Burns and his partner Chase pose on Howard Street in Hibbing Friday morning. The partners competed on the television show America's top Dog and and a public watch party for the first episode will be held at the Memorial Building.

HIBBING — A Hibbing Police Officer and his K9 partner are contestants in Season Two of the A & E Channel’s original series, “America’s Top Dog.”

Officer Joe Burns and K9 Chase, of Hibbing P.D. traveled to California last September where the show was filmed.

“In each one-hour episode, “America’s Top Dog” features furry friends alongside their handlers facing off on a massive canine obstacle course designed to test their speed, agility, teamwork, and trust as they navigate a series of challenges over two rounds of competition,” wrote Erika Winkler Publicity Coordinator for A & E Network, in a press release on Wednesday.

Winkler went on to state that Season Two introduces a new format with head-to-head matchups, pitting a pup against another competitor in their class across working dogs, police K9s and “underdogs,” for an epic battle to prove who is best.

“The winners of each of the three classes face-off head-to-head to determine who is that week’s Top Dog,” according to Winkler. “Each week, the winning team will receive a $10,000 cash prize as well as an additional $5,000 to donate to the animal charity of their choice. In the final week of competition, the winning teams return for the ultimate face off for the title of “America’s Top Dog,” and an additional $25,000.”

If you want to see Officer Burns and K9 Chase in action, a free viewing party is being offered to the public in the hockey arena of the Hibbing Memorial Building on July 13. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the showing at 7 p.m. The audience is encouraged to bring their own chair to ensure there’s adequate seating.

Pizza and K9 Chase merchandise will be available to purchase at the showing. Range Regional Rescue will also have a booth there with information on pets needing a furever home.

If you prefer to watch it at home, tune in to the A & E Channel at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Burns, in an interview this past week, said he tuned in for Season One of “America’s Top Dog” and thought the show looked like a lot of fun.

When Burns later saw a casting call on social media for Season Two, he thought Chase would make a good contestant.

“I know how driven Chase is,” Burns said, while describing the obedient now four year-old Belgian Malinois.

Burns started with the Hibbing Police Department in 2014. Chase is the second K9 he’s worked with in his career. Chase replaced K9 Officer Buddy, who retired in 2016.

When he approached Police Chief Steve Estey about applying for “America’s Top Dog,” Burns said he told Estey that there was “a slim chance” that they’d get picked.

“He was 100 percent supportive of me, even though he didn’t know where we’d get with it,” Burns recalled.

Then one morning, Burns received a call from a casting director in New York, wanting to arrange an interview. After a subsequent interview and online screenings, a call came from California, informing Burns that he and Chase were selected for the competition.

When Burns called Estey to ask for approval to fly to California for the filming, he said at first the chief didn’t believe him.

Once Estey was convinced the request was genuine, he granted it.

Estey, in a prepared statement this past week, called it a “great honor” for his department and the community to be represented on a national level by Officer Burns and K9 Chase.

“Officer Burns and Chase have trained relentlessly and put in countless hours to be a top notch competitor on America’s Top Dog, but most importantly, to protect and serve the citizens of Hibbing,” Estey wrote in an email to the Tribune Press. “The behind the scenes police work that Officer Burns and his crew members have done has helped him and Chase to where they are today. We can’t thank the community enough for the support they have given to our department and our K9 team ever since Chase was put into service in 2018.”

Filming for “America’s Top Dog” took place in Simi Valley, just north of Los Angeles.

Burns said it was a new experience to bring a Chase, a trained drug and apprehension K9, through an airport and onto a plane.

“He flew on the plane next to me,” he said.

In the first round of competition, Chase and the other K9 competitors competed in the Canine Combo, which includes hurdles, crawling under things, knocking a wall over, jumping in a pool, and how to push buttons.

Pushing buttons is a new skill Chase had to learn for the competition as it wasn’t part of his prior police dog training, Burns noted.

While training Chase to push buttons, Burns said he hid a ball in a plastic container and used the command, “hit it” to encourage him to push on the container with his paw.

Once Chase hit the container with his paw, Burns then threw a ball for him as a reward.

“I actually took videos of the training part and sent them to Top Dog,” Burns said. “It was kind of an interesting deal.”

Burns is sworn to secrecy about the outcome of the competition.

“I can’t say anything,” Burns said.

There were more than 100 dogs at the hotel where Burns and Chase stayed while in California. The people he met there have since proved to be an invaluable resource for training, and some have even become new friends.

“It was a lot of fun, because I met amazing people from across the country,” Burns said.

Officer Burns and Chase are dedicated to protect and serve.

Burns and Chase not only serve Hibbing but are also a resource to law enforcement in the surrounding area.

This spring Burns was recognized by the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association as a recipient of its Distinguished Service Award for exceptional police work and community involvement in 2020. The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association plans to recognize Burns and the other Distinguished Service Award recipients at its annual convention in November.

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