Correction: A story on Friday incorrectly identified Rex the drug-sniffing canine as a Belgian Malamute. It should have identified him as a Belgian Malinois.
By Ryan Cornell
WOODSTOCK -- Drug dealers beware, there's a new dog in town.
Rex is a 3-year-old Belgian Malamute used by the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office to sniff out controlled substances such as marijuana, heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy.
With his ears perked up and his 60-pound, black and tan body tugging at his leash, Rex appears constantly primed. A tongue hangs out of the corner of his mouth, slobbering saliva on the ground.
Rex is replacing Rugar, a drug-sniffing dog who retired when his handler, Bill Collins, left the force earlier this summer, according to Captain Wes Dellinger.
For a dog as seemingly playful as Rex, his bite is certainly worse than his bark.
"He's quiet compared to our last dog, who was barking all the time," Dellinger said.
Rex's handler, Deputy Victor Green, is a school resource officer at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. Rex could be used to search all three school campuses and could be kept in a portable kennel behind the school, but mainly will stay at Green's home and be used for calls and search warrants.
"Most commonly what occurs is an officer or deputy will make a traffic stop," Dellinger said. "While he or she is writing a summons or going over information with drivers, if there's any suspicious activity where they think there might be a narcotics violation involved, they'll contact Victor and Rex."
Dellinger said the handler and dog would then go out and run around the vehicle to see if Rex alerts on anything.
Rex was put into service at the beginning of the month, and it wasn't too long before his nose paid off.
Dellinger said Rex was used to sniff out methamphetamines in an Edinburg residence soon after starting the job.
Earlier this summer, Green completed a seven-week training course at U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Canine Center in Front Royal, where he received daily evaluations on his academic knowledge and relationship with Rex.
Green trains Rex about three to five hours a week by hiding training aids that simulate the scent of controlled substances.
When Rex finds the source of a scent, he's rewarded with his toy, a 1-inch PVC pipe.
Green said he tries to make it appear like the scent is originating from the plastic pipe so Rex associates the scent with the reward, and is actively searching for it.
He said Rex, who obeys commands given in Dutch, behaves well with Maggie, the bloodhound used by K9 Deputy Keith Cowart.
Because Rex served for two years in Afghanistan, he was available for a reduced cost through an asset forfeiture program.
Rex was purchased for about $3,000 through a grant provided by the attorney general's office.
According to Green, the average price of a drug-sniffing canine is between $8,000 and $12,000.
Dellinger said these canines can be used for about six to eight years of service.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org