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Reasons to Love Minnesota No. 75: Doors Open Minneapolis

An inside look at otherwise off-limits spaces

This year marked the launch of Doors Open Minneapolis, a weekend-long event that offered free behind-the-scenes tours of and access to 115 venues throughout the city. Notable participants included the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (which actually offers tours year round; sign up here), the Minneapolis Rowing Club, Wing Young Huie‘s art gallery in Powderhorn, the wedding-famous Van Dusen Mansion, the Danish American Center, and the rarely-open-to-the-public Scottish Rite Masonic Center.

We managed to stop by three sites during the inaugural event, including the 18-year-old Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the FOOD BLDG. A veteran sheriff led the 90-minute tour of the downtown Minneapolis jail, typically the first stop for anyone who has been arrested within Hennepin County. It was an informative tour: The officer was frank when answering difficult questions and quick to dispel myths perpetuated by Hollywood shows about prison life. Alas, no photos allowed.

Unfortunately, our visit to the FOOD BLDG, home to the commercial kitchens of Red Table Meat Co. and Baker’s Field Flour & Bread, wasn’t nearly as illuminating. It was the weekend, so the kitchens were totally still—no one was working nor leading tours. All visitors could do was peer at some aged meat through glass windows and sample hors d’oeuvres made with products manufactured at the facility. A skippable experience.

Still, two out of three ain’t bad. The top highlight of our Doors Open experience was a behind-the-scenes look at the Minneapolis’ Police Department’s Canine Unit, founded in 1970.

There are 16 dogs in this elite K9 Kennel. The training is intense, making this one of the toughest and most coveted jobs in the MPD. We spent more than two hours at the kennel, watching training demos by Sgt. John Sheneman (a tactical commander and former SWAT team member with an endearing sense of humor) and doling out belly rubs to dogs like Leo (a 5.5-year-old East German Shepherd and the partner of Y.C. Edwards).

Officer Edwards applied four times before she was accepted into the Canine Unit; now she’s one of its most senior members. Leo, whose name stands for “law enforcement officer,” is her third police dog to date. ⁣⁣And though she could cherry pick any job she wants in the force, she sticks with the dogs because she loves the work.

We were fascinated to learn that the MPD sources its shepherds from Germany and the Czech Republic, which are believed to have the finest blood lines in the world. Landing these primo pups is competitive, as the MPD is bidding against police forces and militaries from around the world.⁣⁣ Also news to us: Police dogs do double duty. They’re trained to both protect their assigned officers and search for narcotics or explosives. Learning how the training works during the Doors Open visit was interesting, but what we loved most was observing the unbreakable bonds between the officers and their dogs.⁣⁣

As animal lovers, we were pleased to learn that the MPD dogs live with their assigned officers, both while they’re working and after they retire. (That goes for the dogs and the cops.) We’re grateful Doors Open offered us a glimpse into this otherwise cloistered world.

To learn more about the Minneapolis Police K9 Foundation or to make a donation, visit their website or call 612-673-5942. And keep your eyes peeled for the grand return of Doors Open Minneapolis in spring 2020.