Pubdate: Sat, 09 Jan 2010
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Copyright: 2010 The Albany Herald Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: Ricki Barker, Staff Writer


ADDU Says Drug Dogs Have A Significant Impact On The Work The Drug
Unit Does.

ALBANY  Coco and Ross are two of Albany Dougherty Drug Unit's hardest
working agents.  
Not only are they reliable, team oriented, and dedicated, they both
have a nose for drugs not to mention four paws and shiny coat. Victor
Camp and Shirley Adams know the importance of their hairy partners,
Coco and Ross, and the sometimes unbelievable work they do for the
drug unit. Camp, whose partner is five-year-old Coco, said the black
shepherd is always excited and eager to work. "She's just like a human
partner," he said. "She rides with me and we talk." Camp demonstrated
how Coco signals for drugs during an interview with The Herald in
which the black shepherd signaled to varying amounts of methaphetamine
hidden among ADDU's parking lot. Coco waited patiently as Camp hid
meth in various places and when given the signal to begin work she
immediately set out to find the drugs with much tail-wagging and
speed. Adams, who was also at the demonstration, said a person could
tell the bond and trust between a handler and a dog by the dog's
reaction. "They have a close bond," she said of Camp and Coco. "He
doesn't even have to use a leash (to guide her). You know the
partnership is working when the dog can block any outside stimuli and
focus on the job they are being asked to do." Adams said that both
dogs have different personalities, much like their owners. "Ross is a
more aggressive dog," she said. "He is very protective of me." Adams
said that the longer a dog is with their handler the more protective
they become. "You build that bond with them and eventually they become
your family," she said. Adams said Ross, a Czech shepherd, has come to
know various officers voices on ADDU's radios. "He can hear the tone
of someone's voice and know who it is and if they are excited he gets

He knows he is about to work," she said. "Ross even starts barking
sometimes when he feels the car accelerate because he knows something
is happening." ADDU Commander Major Bill Berry said both dogs are
priceless tools for the drug unit. "They are excellent tools," he
said. "They do the work that we as humans can't. They can find where
someone has hidden drugs where we may overlook." Berry said Coco and
Ross work 24 hours a day and switch off on weekly duty. "One dog takes
one week and the other takes the other week," he said. Berry said the
dogs train at least twice a week and the handlers use real drugs in
training. "A lot of people think that the dogs are addicted," said
Adams. "That's not true. It is part of our jobs (as handlers) to make
sure the dog never ingest or breathes in the actual drug." Coco and
Ross are trained to alert to drugs passively, meaning that they sit
when they smell drugs and stare at the direction to drug's location.
"We don't allow them to actively alert," said Berry. "That's where
they claw at the location where the drugs are." Active alerting can
lead to injury or destruction of property. "The dogs are also not
allowed to search people," said Berry. "It about safety for the person
and for the dog. There is a great chance the dog might get excited and
bite the person or the person may not like dogs and try and injure
them." Any building or automobile that is searched for drugs by Coco
and Ross must be emptied of all people, said ADDU agents. Both Ross
and Coco were bought for the ADDU through asset forfeiture, meaning
money seized by the drug unit in raids. Camp and Adams also have
specialized cruisers that are made for their furry partners in mind.
"There cars have what is called Hot Dog," said Berry. "If the car ever
gets to a certain temperature where the dog is too hot the windows
roll down automatically and fans come on. The car also sends a beep to
the officer to let them know that their dog might be getting too hot."
The Albany Humane Society purchased the alert system for the canines
after an unfortunate incident a few years back. "A dog had died when
he was left in the car in the parking lot," said Berry. "His partner
had come into the building only meaning to be in her for a few minutes
and got tied up and lost track of time." No incidents like that have
occurred since the new system has been in place, he said. The kennels
at ADDU also have special amenities for Coco and Ross that includes
fans and an automatic water dispenser. Camp, who worked with one of
ADDU's first drug dogs, Jack, said his partners continue to amaze.
"They are well worth the investment," he said.

The ADDU officer said one of the things he is most amazed by Coco is
her eagerness. "A couple of times when we did searches she stuck her
nose in between the mattress and box spring of bed trying to get to
the drugs," he said. Adams said she was also amazed at the dog's keen
sense of smell. "They are extremely intelligent," she said. "I'm
amazed at how they can find things that you would never think they
(drug dealers) would hid them (drugs)." Adams said Ross has located
many secret compartments in vehicles and houses that were used for
storing drugs. She said one of the biggest busts ADDU has made was
thanks to Ross's keen sense of smell. "We found 10 kilos of cocaine in
a hidden compartment in a vehicle," said Adams. Berry said that both
dogs have paid back almost triple their cost in the amount of drug
seizures they have located. "I wish we could have four," he said.
"Coco and Ross cost $6,800 and they have earned way more than that."
Adams said that being the partner to a dog is not easy. "It's 24/7,"
she said. "You have to take care of them like a child.

They look to you for their needs.

You have to be careful during searches and training.

Your emotions run down the leash and a dog can feel it. You have to be
careful about the little things." Just like humans, dogs also have
Monday morning blues, Adams said. "They have their bad days too," she
said. "You just can't work them that day." Berry said Ross and Coco
have helped ADDU seize significant amounts of drugs, cash and other
assets. "They are some of my best employees," he said.

The reward the dogs get for their work, a toy handlers call a kong. A
kong is an almost indestructible balls or shaped chew toy. "That's all
they want," said Camp. "They are looking for that toy and that play."
Adams said Ross likes to switch up his rewards often. "Sometimes he
gets bored and I have to change up his toy," she said. Both officers
said their work for ADDU would be different without their constant
companions. "Coco is my family," said Camp. "She's my pet, my friend
and my partner."  
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