By Naomi Hatch
Smoke, the Snowflake-Taylor Police Department’s K-9 drug dog, was introduced to the Snowflake Town Council Dec. 11, and he showed off his talent as a drug sniffing dog.
Police Chief Jerry VanWinkle introduced Officer Jared Leonard, and thanked him again the work he did to put the K-9 program together and for providing the dog. VanWinkle also thanked the council members for their support.
Smoke, a Belgian Malinois from Holland, is almost 4 and was trained in the California program, which only trains law enforcement canines.
“The whole thing to him is finding narcotics,” explained Leonard. “To him, it’s a game.” He went on to explain that his training began by giving him a toy that has a scent of narcotics, “so the dog is playing with it.”
“Once he associates the toy with narcotics, I’ll then start hiding it and over time it’s based on a game to find that toy,” said Leonard.
“We have located narcotics since we’ve had him on traffic stops right here in our community,” stated the officer, who then demonstrated Smoke’s skill.
Several containers were set around the room prior to Smoke entering the council chambers. Leonard pre-tended he threw the toy that had just been shown to Smoke and put it away as Smoke started looking for it.
Officer Leonard was trained with Smoke, and can tell by his breathing technique and posture if the dog has located drugs.
Smoke is given the command, and Leonard walks with him to show him each item and see if he indicates on any of them.
“Based on his breathing technique, I can see if there’s any interest in the item,” said Leonard. “He will do a final response, and then Smoke will sit or lay down, and that will be the final response.”
Smoke walked around each container and showed interest in one. Officer Leonard asked the dog if he found something, and Smoke sat. Smoke was asked three times, and the third time the dog laid down by the container.
“One of the reasons that we really like this dog is he’s passive/alert,” said Chief VanWinkle, “not a dog that jumps on things.”
“You saw when he found it (drugs), he sits down,” said the chief. “We did that purposely so he won’t bite somebody,” noting that the rumor that Smoke is vicious and bit someone is just that, a rumor.
“It’s not a bite dog, we don’t want it to be a bite dog,” said Chief VanWinkle. “We got it for the sole purpose of using it as a tool to fight drugs and use it in the fight on drugs.”
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By Naomi Hatch