After a substantial fundraising effort, Crook County Sheriff's Office was able to purchase new drug detection dog, Jett

Photo Credit: JASON CHANEY - Jett, the new drug detection dog for CCSO, poses for a photo with his handler, Deputy Mitch Madden.

In the fight to keep drugs off local streets, man’s best friend is often a deputy’s best bet.

“The dog’s nose is 100 times keener than ours,” said Crook County Deputy Mitch Madden. “If you are barbecuing, we can smell the hamburger. The dog smells the meat, the onion, the sauce, the bun — they smell all of that — so they are really able to pick out the different odors of the drug that it is trained on.”

After a more than year-long fundraising effort, Madden was finally paired with Jett, an appropriate name given the Labrador’s jet-black hair. Arriving in mid-July, the canine has lived with his new handler, and trains regularly in preparation for his first job.

Madden first got the itch to become a canine handler after seeing a drug dog in action earlier in his career.

“I have always been a dog person,” he said, “and the first time I got to see a police canine, I told myself that is something I wanted to do.”

Until recently, that option wasn’t available for Madden in Crook County. Having no drug detection dog, they typically turned to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office when drug busts called for the expert nose of a canine.

“We had to contract with them if we needed a dog over here for whatever reason,” Madden explained. “So that costs that agency time and it costs them money. If the handler is off duty, then they have to pay them overtime.”

The presence of a trained canine can cut the search time for illicit drugs in half, Madden added, which enables them to reduce manpower and lower personnel expenses.

The quest to obtain a drug dog started modestly about a year and a half ago. Facing an influx of meth and heroin in Prineville, law enforcement sought the services of a canine to help curb the problem. Madden pounced on the opportunity, approaching his superiors with a proposal to raise funds for the dog and become its handler.

Money came slowly at first, he said, but along the way, Prineville-based Crestview Cable joined the fundraising effort. Coupled with some community events, the campaign picked up momentum.

“Once the word really got out there, the money just started pouring in,” Madden said.

To date, the fundraising has generated about $22,000, all of which goes toward care of Jett. Of that, nearly half came from generous donations from several entities. The Central Oregon Law Enforcement Services Board contributed $5,600 while American Nutrition gave more than $3,000. Club Pioneer, of Prineville, donated $500, as did Wal-Mart.

“Right now, we are still accepting donations just to keep the slush fund up to where we can pay for vet bills, food, dog equipment, or any other training,” Madden said.

To prepare for their eventual partnership, Madden spent four weeks with Jett and trained with several law enforcement agencies in California. The duo concluded their training with a certification from the California Narcotics Canine Association.

Jett has yet to put his skills to the test during an actual drug bust, but if his training is any indication, he should not only find the contraband, but thoroughly enjoy the process at the same time.

“The dog associates that odor with receiving its play toy,” Madden explained. “The only time he gets his play toy is if he alerts on the odor that he is trained on. It is basically a big game to him.”

And it’s a game he usually wins.

“Every time we go to training, he will alert on the odor, and he is just waiting to figure out where the ball is coming from,” said Madden.

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