In her first year as a drug dog, Blue’s nose for illegal substances already has led to multiple drug busts for Marion’s city police.
A few times, an arrest would not have been possible without her, said officer Aaron Slater, who serves as Blue’s handler for the department’s K-9 unit.
“She has been working really well,” he said. “I’ve bonded with her for sure.”
Marion police welcomed the now 2-year-old Belgian Malinois with the aid of $11,946 raised by the community.
Since then, Blue has sniffed out controlled substances, tracked a domestic violence suspect, and visited area schools.
Blue’s intelligence and big heart quickly won Slater over, as did the high energy that also is a Belgian Malinois trait.
“She’s crazy,” he said. “She is all over the place. She has a really friendly personality. She’s just 100% all the time.”
Learning to work as a team has taken diligence, patience and consistent drills in obedience.
Drug detection dogs are taught to identify multiple controlled substances and alert their handler when they sniff them out.
“It is definitely more of a job than it looks like,” he said. “Every shift, I do training with her either in obedience or drug finds.”
However Slater is careful to lighten things up by a game of fetch or a tug of war with Blue’s favorite rope to keep from burning her out.
“You have to learn not to do something that will break the dog from wanting to train,” he said. “If you scare the dog off training it could hinder their ability to work.”
The two are duty from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Patrol officer Zach Hudlin, works nights when Slater and Blue are off.
Blue rides in the back of Slater’s police vehicle and “gets amped up” and starts barking when he pulls out to make a traffic stop.
On a slow night, Slater will take her out to play fetch.
“I don’t want her getting cooped up in the car all night,” he said.
Handling a K-9 often has left Slater wondering if he has bitten off more than he can chew, but he also thinks Blue has made him a better officer.
Watching her perform well after careful training is a good feeling, he said.
“It’s much more than I was expecting, but I would not trade my job as a handler,” he said.