Not many know, but Hettinger has had a superhero roaming the streets, helping Hettinger Law Enforcement expose criminals. This vitalsidekick uses her super senses to detect trouble from a distance and helps Adams County Sheriff, Travis Collins, subdue crime. This hero, Cherry the drug dog,just started her third year working for the Adams County Sheriff’s Department.
When Cherry was a young pup, a police training service organization in Omaha rescued her from a shelter. Thankfully, the training organization recognizedCherry’s potential drug-detecting talents and honed her skills.
“She had the right traits to be a drug dog, so she was trained to detect illegal substances,” said Collins, “The training is just using the dogs normal prey drive and substituting it with the substances we are looking for. We just replace what she would otherwise be looking for with illegal narcotics.”
Although there are many uses for dogs in law enforcement, such as detecting bombs and subduing criminals, Cherry was only trained specifically to detect drugs.
After months of intensive training, Cherry joined the Adams County Sheriff’s Department as a prized new member in 2015.
Sheriff Collins is the primary care taker and handler taker for Cherry. “She goes home with me everyday,” he said, “The best teams are the ones that work together on a daily basis.”
With the required training and certification, Cherry cost roughly $10,000. 90 percent of the cost was paid for using an oil impact grant back when Adams County law enforcement acquired Cherry.
Sheriff Collins also went through weeks of training to recognize the dog’s tendencies and how to properly handle the animal.
According to Collins, Cherry, like most other service drug dogs, has a passive indication, which is a sit, stare, or stand. When Cherry finds a source of narcotics, she will sit and stare at the source.
“During training, you learn the dog’s normal traits and ticks. Then you learn what to recognize when the dog has locked onto [a substance],” said Collins.“You need to learn what their trained response is for finding illegal narcotics.”
To maintain the certification and keep up to date on practice, Collins meets with other dog handlers in the area every month to keep the dog’s senses sharp.
“There’s a lot of extra work to it,” said Collins, “Drug dogs are continually trained. It’s federally mandated to do 16 hours of training per month. We do a lot more than that. That’s the standard that’s been set.”
Constant practice is necessary to make sure that the drug dogs are hitting consistently on illegal substances. That way,Cherry doesn’t accidentally hit on something like cigarettes or prescription medications.
Aside from just practicing, Cherry is routinely working in the field, searching for substances in vehicles or in schools.
“If an officer or deputy in our county stops a vehicle and has reasonable suspicion that there might be something in there, they can give me a call, and we can come out and check the vehicle,” said Sheriff Collins. “We’ve helped with a lot of search warrants. [Cherry and I] try to go, as much as our schedule allows, and get into the schools. We were just at the school last week and did a sniff, and knock on wood, we didn’t find anything.”
Cherry’s three years of loyal service at the Adams County Sheriff’s Department has led to a safer Hettinger. Thanks Cherry the drug dog!