Raven to sniff out drugs `never more’ | PostIndependent.com

Raven to sniff out drugs `never more’

Lynn Burton

When a dedicated drug dog like Raven gets old, what starts to go first? The nose? The legs? The fire in the belly?

“It’s the legs,” said Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling, who has worked with Raven since the Labrador mix hooked up with his department five years ago.

Carbondale police sgt. Chris Wurtsmith, who recruited Raven, elaborated.

“She’s acting like she’s showing some signs of arthritis, and her eyes are starting to get clouded a bit,” Wurtsmith said.

Although Raven can still look forward to patrolling Carbondale in the back seat of a police car, and barking like all get out when she sniffs out illegal drugs, her days as the town’s No. 1 drug dog are nearing an end.

Retirement could be as soon as five months away, which in dog years is only about three weeks.

“We’ll probably give her a retirement party,” Schilling said.

Lady that she is, Raven politely declined to divulge her age, or her weight for that matter. Wurtsmith, who has access to Raven’s dogonnel file, estimates her age at 10 to 12 years. Because Wurtsmith is Raven’s handler, he’s pretty sure she weighs about 90 pounds.

Raven is a career dog, and has faced state testing every two years.

“She has to run a course and do other kinds of stuff,” said Schilling. “She had to go to school before becoming a drug dog.”

Wurtsmith brought Raven over from the Glenwood Springs Police Department in 1997 when that department decided to go with a younger dog. Right off the bat, Raven played a key role in an unusual police bust.

Wurtsmith said he was patrolling one night and noticed some men working on a pickup truck at the old Carbondale Mine Services lot north of the railroad tracks.

Raven and the Glenwood Springs drug dog sniffed out 750 pounds of rifle ammo. The truck was apparently used to smuggle drugs to the United States from Mexico, and ammo back to Mexico. The dogs detected secret compartments where the drugs and ammo were hidden.

“The owner never did come back to get his truck,” Wurtsmith said.

Most people who work for the town of Carbondale have a job description of one form or another. Raven is an exception. Her duties include sniffing out drugs in homes and vehicles and alerting officers.

“There are two kinds of dogs, aggressive ones and passive ones,” Wurtsmith said, describing the way drug-sniffing dogs work.

The passive dogs sit and stare at drugs as a way to point them out. Aggressive dogs bark and scratch at the drugs’ hiding place

“Raven is the active type,” Wurtsmith said.

Raven saves the police department time by locating drugs the police officers might spend hours looking for.

Schilling said another of Raven’s best performances came after police officers searched a house for five hours before Raven came on duty.

“Within 30 minutes, she found them,” Schilling said of the drug cache.

Raven lives with Wurtsmith and his family in Glenwood Springs, and they carpool to work together each day. Carbondale police work four 10-hour days, then get three days off.

“I have no idea what she does on those three-day weekends,” Schilling said.

Wurtsmith said Raven loves to run up Red Mountain on her off time. “She especially loves it when it snows,” he said.

Raven will remain as Carbondale’s primary “go-to dog” until a replacement is brought on board next spring.

After that, Raven will be the department’s back up K9 until her state certification expires in 2004.

In her back up role, Raven will not be on the department’s payroll, but this duty may evolve into “pro bone-o” work.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext 534


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