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One of the newest members of the Elizabethtown Police Department likes nothing more than chewing on a green tennis ball.
The 9-year-old police dog, Niko, only sees the ball when it’s time for him to hunt for marijuana, crack cocaine, powdered cocaine, methamphetamines or heroine. He gets to play with the ball as his handler, Officer Chris Bland, pulls at the ball with an attached string.
The Belgian malinois donated by the Louisville Metro Police Department arrived in the area a few weeks ago and has already assisted in a drug bust at a traffic stop.
He showed off his ability to track down a hidden bag of marijuana and a gun that had recently fired a blank Monday to Elizabethtown City Council members and later to Citizens Police Academy participants.
Councilman Tony Bishop was impressed with how the dog’s nose led him right to the items for which he was searching.
“I would have still been walking around distracted,” he said. “To see how it does its job is just amazing to me.”
Bishop thinks Niko will be good for the city, and he hopes knowing the dog is with the police department will deter people from committing crimes.
Niko was nearing retirement age when he found a new home with the Elizabethtown Police Department.
Retiring old police dogs isn’t easy.
They often die relatively soon after their days sniffing for guns and drugs and chasing suspects are over, said Officer Rick Heine, detection trainer for the LMPD’s K9 unit.
Heine isn’t sure whether the dogs lose the will to live after they don’t get to do their jobs, for which they live from 1-year-old on, or after they see their handlers of years start taking another pooch out of the kennel instead.
Niko is getting too old to take on suspects, but he can sniff out drugs and articles, such as a gun tossed during a pursuit, as well as ever, he said.
“We’re just glad to send him to a good home,” he said.
Bland said the dog will help the department because he can track down objects quickly that might take officers hours of searching a lots of flashlight batteries to locate.
The pooch’s ability to sniff out drugs will be exceptionally handy since the community was recently named a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, he said.
EPD members thanked area businesses that have offered to provide for Niko’s healthcare, kennel facilities and other needs and the LMPD for Niko and the training to handle one of EPD’s newest additions.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or email@example.com.