By Kimberly Peterson

McGruff the Crime Dog has a little competition at UMC.

Nero, the University Medical Center dog, arrived at the center on April 4, ready to fight criminals, eat Alpo and befriend little children in a single bound.

UMC security acquired Nero to play a dual role, said UMC spokesman George Humphrey.

In addition to patroling garages and the area surrounding the center, Nero will serve as a spokesdog, visiting such departments as Pediatrics.

"This is not strictly just a police dog," Humphrey said. "The dog will also be a goodwill ambassador for the hospital."

Nero, who will work mostly at night under one security officer, will also stay with that officer during the day, Humphrey said.

UMC has recently seen increased security problems, and acquiring Nero was a better choice than arming UMC's 27 security officers with guns, Humphrey said.

Weighing in at 75 pounds, Nero is a Belgian malinois, a breed that is beginning to replace the German shepherd in security positions, Humphrey said. He only understands commands spoken in German and is currently in obedience training where he will learn how to work with security officers.

The University of Arizona Police Department has used two Belgian malinois dogs for the past three years, said Sergeant Brian Seastone.

The malinois breed is very personable, Seastone said. "They're very conducive to this type of environment," he said. "They're friendly whereas other types of police dogs aren't. They're very easy to train." primarily used in narcotics investigations, Seastone said.

But Nero will stay away from narcotics at UMC, Humphrey said.

"Here it's a hospital, and that's a whole different situation," Humphrey said. "It isn't necessarily suspicious that someone's walking around here at three in the morning." Read Next Article