Happy ending in crime story has Notre Dame football connection

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

It was fairly nondescript as far as crime stories go.

But five paragraphs about a fleeing suspect and an eventual arrest on Wednesday warmed the hearts of former Notre Dame football players Tom Zbikowski and Joe Brockington.

No, the former All-America safety and starting linebacker for the Irish more than a decade ago didn’t tackle the suspect, but the hero — unnamed in the story — tracked the runaway for 45 minutes before cornering him trying to hide in a garage in a South Bend neighborhood.

The hero’s name? Bishop.

He’s a member of the Lakeville K-9 unit that assisted in the arrest of a man accused of using a stolen credit card and who ran when confronted by the police. He reportedly took off on foot at a gas station on Mishawaka Avenue, where he was allegedly attempting to buy a gift card with the stolen credit card.

Before Bishop was a police dog, he lived with Brockington and his wife, Lindsay. Eleven years ago, they founded IBSO K9 LLC, a business that breeds, raises, trains and cares for German Shepherds.

They operate out of a 25-acre property in Millerstown, Pa., and Bishop is one of many who have gone on to help police forces, bomb squads and individuals who use them as personal protection dogs and/or have them compete regionally and nationally in the sport of Schutzhund.

Schutzhund promotes the desired qualities of a working dog (German Shepherd). There dogs are judged on tracking, obedience and protection.

“We try to keep track of the dogs we breed,” Brockington said. “They’re kind of an extended part of our family, I would say.”

Without Zbikowski, though, there would be no Bishop and no business for Brockington.

Bloodlines mean everything in the breeding business, and in 2008 Brockington wanted to buy and import a German Shepherd from Slovakia named Yogy. The hurdle was financial, and at times seemed insurmountable.

“That’s where Tommy comes in,” Brockington said of his longtime friend and former Irish football teammate. “The dog wasn’t cheap. So I needed someone to finance the dog. I talked to a couple of guys I knew, and he was the one who was willing to go for it.”

“Yogy kind of jump-started our bloodline, and since then we’ve been breeding our dogs and trying to place them into the hands or working homes.”

Zbikowski kept one of the puppies, Sophie, for himself. Bishop’s father is also Yogy.

Brockington’s passion started while he was still at Notre Dame. Late in his college football career, Brockington began volunteering with the K-9 unit at the South Bend Police Department.

There, he met an officer named Jeff Rynearson, who is now operations division chief for the department. Rynearson became a mentor for Brockington at the time.

Coming full circle, Rynearson bought Bishop from Brockington, sold the dog to the department, trained him and got him certified to work the street. Patrick Howard is Bishop’s handler these days, and the one who broke the news to Brockington after the arrest was made on Wednesday.

“It was great to hear how happy they were with the job Bishop did,” Brockington said. “It was kind of funny I was at a Notre Dame function in Harrisburg (Pa.) at the time. It’s kind of crazy, here I am at this Notre Dame event, and the dog was working hard near Notre Dame doing his job and keeping people safe.”

Handler Patrick Howard (left) and former Notre Dame linebacker Joe Brockington (right) help train Lakeville K-9 unit member Bishop.