*FROM THE INDEPENDENT PRESS (NOVEMBER 17, 2005) BY KATE BERTIN*
Colstrip's newest police officer is rather hairy and eats her food from a bowl on the floor. Her name is Daisy, and she is the Colstrip Police Department's new drug dog. Daisy, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois, came originally from Germany, where she was raised by a breeder who specializes in dogs for police work. She traveled from Germany to Ohio, where she attended a special school for police dogs. For the final six weeks, she worked one-on-one with Colstrip police officer Don Purdon, who traveled to Ohio to attend school along with Daisy.
Daisy has been trained in narcotics detection as well as apprehension and patrol work. She can detect four different drugs - Methamphetamines, Marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
A dog's olfactory senses are incredibly sensitive, Purdon explained. While the human nose can smell a hamburger, a dog's sniffer can pick out the scent of cooked meat, burger bun, ketchup, mayonnaise, onion, lettuce and pickle - each individual scent.
Daisy learned to detect drugs by playing a game. Trainers placed each specific drug in a dog toy, then played "fetch" with the dogs. By breathing the odor of the drug through their mouths, the dogs learned to associate the smell of the drugs with their toys.
"They find the drugs because they want to play," Purdon said. "It's just a big game of fetch."
One of the exercises Purdon and Daisy did at school was to find drugs on a blank wall. The wall was 30-40 feet long and 7 feet tall, with cubbyholes in the back.
The dog first indicates an area in which drugs may be found, and then pinpoints the exact location with what Purdon called a "passive alert" stance. The dog is still and focused intently on the point that has the strongest drug odor.
When Purdon is working with Daisy, he makes finding the drugs a fast-paced game. When she performs properly, she is rewarded by getting to play with Purdon.
Daisy performs building and area searches and tracking by scent. She also can knock down fleeing suspects and keep them at bay until a two-footed officer arrives to help.
The dog does not make false indications, Purdon added. If she goes into passive alert stance, then either there is something there, or she smells something that was there at one time.
Dogs undergo seven tests to see if the animals are capable of being police dogs. Energy levels must be high and the dogs must not be easily distracted from its task, Purdon said.
When directing Daisy, Purdon uses commands in Dutch so that English phrases like "sit down" that are directed at a suspect don't confuse the dog - and vice versa.
Daisy will live with Purdon and be his "shadow" 24 hours a day, he said. She is very friendly, but people who have questions about her or who would like to pet her should talk to Purdon first.
Mayor John Williams swore Daisy in as a police officer at a ceremony at City Hall. She is under the same protection as a regular police officer, Purdon said.