It’s normal to be proud of your dog. Many owners rejoice if they can get their dog to stay still for a family photo or refrain from drinking out of the toilet. Some find it rewarding if their dog will tolerate a costume for more than five minutes.
But Ares has to work a little harder to get a “good boy” from his human. He’s a drug detection dog with the Dickinson Police Department. A good day for him is busting 238 grams of methamphetamine at a traffic stop.
The Dutch shepherd, who has been with the police department for two years, sniffed out more than 8 ounces of methamphetamine Saturday, said officer Alex Sharp, who partners with Ares.
“He’s with me 24/7,” Sharp said. “I wake up and get ready for work. He gets ready with me for work. I feed him. We get in the car. We do our shift together and go home together. That’s my partner.”
On Saturday, Sharp and Ares stopped a vehicle after a minor traffic infraction, Sharp said.
Ares, 4, sniffed out the drugs in several stash containers stored in a backpack in the vehicle, Sharp said.
An investigation is underway and charges have yet to be filed on the case, said detective Lupe Vasquez, the department’s spokesman.
Dogs like Ares aren’t just born with the ability to sniff out narcotics, it takes training and discipline, Sharp said.
“We’re constantly training,” he said. “We never stop.”
Ares hones his skills at Bellum K9, 13820 Country Side St., with trainers who teach dogs with certain genetics to protect and trace scents, said Shane McNamara, owner of the training facility.
McNamara trains dogs for police departments and for people who want their dogs to learn discipline or how to provide protection, McNamara said.
“It takes a guy like me to take a 1-year-old dog and have it ready to go to a police department in a couple of months,” McNamara said.
McNamara was in the U.S Air Force for almost 10 years as a security forces K-9 handler and trainer, he said.
McNamara opened a training facility to the public in Santa Fe in 2021, he said.
For dog trainers, it’s a goal to work with police departments, he said.
“Ares has just been an incredible dog to train,” McNamara said. “But when he first came in, there was little to no obedience. We’ve helped build the dog pretty far to its ability, along with Alex.”
One of the training practices McNamara has set for Ares is scent tracking. McNamara will place an article of clothing at distances spanning from 100 yards to more than a mile away.
“We want to be able to train a dog to track a person from at least a mile,” McNamara said. “A mile is a good dog. And Ares has done that; he’s done incredibly long tracks.”
When Ares is let out of the squad car, he picks up a scent and his behavior changes. He pulls Sharp with his leash.
Ares also is trained to sniff out a particular scent in a warehouse in a matter of seconds, McNamara said.
The warehouse is filled with distracting odors from other dogs that practice in the facility, but Ares is trained to ignore them and stick to the mission.
When Ares finds the scent in the room, his mouth closes, his breathing increases, his tail wags and he sits down, indicating he has found the source of the smell.
Although Ares doesn’t get paid money like his coworkers, he is awarded a nice steak dinner when he makes a drug bust or is given a chew toy when he accomplishes his practice tasks, Sharp said.
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