'Legendary' state police tracking dog honored at his former post

Evan James Carter
The Detroit News

Taylor — State Trooper Matt Unterbrink and Boz developed a reputation during their time working in high-crime neighborhoods in Detroit as the team to call for tracking suspects or searching for weapons.

Unterbrink and Boz, his K-9 tracking partner, worked out of the state police post in Taylor from 2015 through 2018, snagging suspects and locating evidence, forging a bond  that went beyond police work. They were "Matt and Boz," and were sought after for their ability to track down criminals in an urban setting long after other trackers would have considered the task impossible, Unterbrink's colleagues say. 

Michigan State Trooper Matt Unterbrink poses with his partner Boz, a firearm tracking dog

Boz, Unterbrink said, just had a nose for crime. And Unterbrink knew his partner, trained at sniffing out weapons, firmly had his back.

On Thursday, Unterbrink was in Taylor, driving from his post in Cadillac to hear state police Chaplain Michael O'Mire describe the relentless canine, who died of cancer in April at age 8, and to dedicate a granite plaque honoring Boz.

Others who attended the ceremony at the Taylor MSP post, including troopers and Detroit officers, called Boz a legend among K-9 ranks.

Michigan State Police Chaplain Michael O'Mire, left, and State Trooper Matt Unterbrink give remarks before the unveiling of a memorial to Unterbrink's deceased K9 partner Boz.

The German shepherd from  Czech Republic spent nearly seven years helping state police and Detroit officers track crime or face down suspects armed with guns. 

"Truly, he is a legendary German shepherd," O'Mire said. "Not just with MSP, but with local agencies that often called on Matt and Boz for help."

Troopers John Beafore and Roger Craig described how Unterbrink and Boz searched perilous areas in Detroit, particularly in the 9th Precinct on the city's east side. 

"Guaranteed, in more than one instance, he saved us from walking into a place ... where a dude was waiting on us with a gun," Craig said.

A granite plaque honors Boz, who tracked weapons and suspects in high-crime areas with his partner of State Trooper Matt Unterbrink.

On one call, Boz helped police find a suspect who was hiding under the foundation of a house and beneath pipes.

There were other calls, the troopers said. In their line of work, the kind of activity that Unterbrink and Boz were known for "happened every single day."

In another case, Detroit police and FBI executed a search warrant at a house in Detroit but couldn't find the guns they were looking for that were used by a suspected gun-for-hire.

Unterbrink and Boz were called. The stash was recovered.

"That was an awesome one because (the guns) were actually wrapped in plastic, put in garbage bags, and then there was like a mound of clothes piled on top of them," Unterbrink said. "Boz dug through the clothes."

On one call Boz was involved in with his partner Matt Unterbrink, Detroit police and FBI were looking for weapons at a house in Detroit but were unable to find the guns. Boz "dug through the clothes" in the house and found the cache, Unterbrink said.

Unterbrink says credit for Boz's finely tuned nose goes to MSP Sgt. Matt McCaul, who as a trooper trained Boz as the first dog trained in searching for spent bullet casings. Unterbrink assumed responsibility for Boz in 2015.

In January, Unterbrink transferred to Cadillac, taking Boz with him. 

Unterbrink has had other noted arrests with canine partners: A previous K-9 partner,Apollo, help capture then 87-year-old Leo Sharp in 2011. Sharp, who was acting as a mule for a drug cartel, was attempting to transport 228 pounds of cocaine into Detroit from Mexico. Actor and director Clint Eastwood depicted the arrest in his 2018 movie "The Mule."

"I did a lot of stops like that," Unterbrink said. "It was always funny because Leo Sharp was just one that ended up kinda going viral."

Because Boz lived with him and his family, Boz and his daughter developed a special relationship, he said.

Tests at Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in April had found that Boz had cancer. Less than a week after more tests, he was gone.

"You put so much work into them at the beginning," Unterbrink said.  "A lot of your life goes into them because they live with you all the time.

"I actually spend more time with our dogs than we do with our families," he said.  


Twitter: @EvanJamesCarter