BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Blytheville has a new drug dog. The new officers name is Rock-o and it suits the 18 month old black German Shepherd. He's furry and taking on the mean streets of Blytheville.
Rock-o's artner is Officer Don Ledford, they have been partnered for about a month. Rock-o was trained in Little Rock where Ledford went for a week of training in learning how to handle the dog.
Ledford, "We would get back to my motel room and I would be doing my homework. He would just stand beside me with his head in my lap and he would just stay there. He wouldn't sit, never lay down. Constant contact, that first week of bonding is all it took."
Although he will protect Ledford that is not his primary task. Rock-o is highly trained in many aspects. First off he is a search dog. Not search and rescue but searching for crooks in a different manner than a bloodhound.
"This type of dog as compared to hound dogs actually tracks to ground disturbance as compared to a persons scent." Ledford said, "It's the difference between floppy eared dogs and pointy eared dogs. "
Rock-o and Ledford train every day in tracking, obedience and drug detection. "Tracking wise we'll do that 2/3 times a day and it will take about 4 months and he'll get to the point where he can track somebody along the ground walking or running." Ledford told us, he still has Rock-o on a long leash but that, he says will go away once he is fully trained.
Since Rock-o has no other handlers he lives with Ledford at his home. Ledford has 2 kids and another dog at home. He says Rock-o gets along well with all of them.
Ledford, "He gets about half hour to 45 minutes in the house. And that's laying in the middle of the living room floor on a rug. And that's all he gets to do. Then it's back outside."
Ledford's family does get to interact with Rock-o to make him comfortable with them all. Ledford says as time goes on Rock-o will get more inside time with the family.
Several officers had applied to be the dog handler. Department officials felt Ledford had the skills and mindset that would make him a good partner with the dog.
Rock-o's primary task is searching out drugs. Mainly cocaine, meth and marijuana the most common drugs found in the area by law enforcement. Ledford salted a room with some of each for training purposes to show us how the dog works. Rock-o does not alert but locks in and stares at whatever contains the drugs. And for training purposes he is rewarded with his favorite toy..a tennis ball.
Ledford, "For training purposes you'll see me give him his tennis ball as a reward when he finds the narcotics. On an actual deployment naturally he wouldn't get that reward. He would just get a pat on the back, good job."
Rock-o moved rapidly around the room sniffing out the drugs. At each location he sat mesmerized until Ledford tossed his ball and broke the spell. Ledford says he will usually work the room twice. At a crime scene Ledford may clear the room and let Rock-o have his head to see if there is anything still there.
For Rock-o it's all a game. For those he will soon be sniffing out, it won't be any fun. "If they lie to me about having narcotics in their residence or vehicle;" Ledford says as he looked down at Rock-o. He will show me that they are lying, he'll find them."