From shelter dog, to drug detective

Video: Bend mutt Narc helps sniff out drugs

By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin

Narc might look like the family pet, but the 11-year-old Labrador retriever and border collie mix has a nose for heroin.

The 53-pound drug-detection dog routinely sniffs out a range of drugs and money, in total worth more than $1 million, according to his handler at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

Narc’s career is unusual for a mixed-breed dog. Ten years ago, he was at the Humane Society of the Ochocos in Prineville. Handler Stacy Crawford, 44, a Deschutes County sheriff’s deputy, showed up to test a purebred Labrador retriever but wound up choosing the mutt.

“Narc, he doesn’t look like much, but we tested about 200 dogs to find him,” Crawford said in an interview earlier this month. “He has that drive set. He’ll climb anything, go to anywhere he needs to go to find drugs. A very confident dog.”

Narc is the first mixed-breed drug-detection dog in Central Oregon, but Oregon Police Canine Association trainer Mack Reid, 62, has trained many such dogs to find drugs during his career at the Oregon Department of Corrections. Reid is now retired and lives in McMinnville, but he still trains K-9 teams.

“I’ve had great luck with the Humane Societies in Oregon,” Reid said earlier this month. “I get calls from all over when they get a dog. ... Typically the dog I want is going to be difficult to adopt, because I want a very busy and energetic dog, and typically those don’t do well in somebody’s house. They need to have a job. … The first thing I do when I get a dog is make sure it will jump up on the kitchen table, because we want dogs to go everywhere.”

Reid had four canine partners he worked with to find drugs in Oregon’s prisons, and only one was a purebred. The rest came from Humane Societies. “Probably the best one was a pit bull mix,” Reid said. “Chinook was his name.” Reid trained in the 1990s to work with canines at a prison in McNeil Island, Wash., and the sergeant who taught him had found many of the prison’s working dogs through local animal rescue groups.

Financial constraints drove Crawford to search for dogs in unconventional places. “My department couldn’t afford a dog at the time, so I just went and found Narc and trained him and donated him to the department,” Crawford said. “I just loved K-9s, loved what I was doing. I could hardly imagine pushing a patrol car around without one.”

Back when Crawford was searching for a new canine partner, he tested any dog he could. He found some dogs through ads on Craigslist, and others were offered up by friends of friends.

“We’re looking for a specific drive,” Crawford said. “They have to have huge hunt drive. They want to go; they want to hunt. They’re one of those dogs that usually drives everyone else nuts in the backyard.”

Narc turned out to be a great bargain for the Sheriff’s Office. “I’ve had three drug dogs since I worked at the Sheriff’s Office, and he’s by far the best,” Crawford said. “He’s (got) over $1 million in drug and currency seizures.” Crawford’s previous drug-detection dogs were Labrador retrievers. The patrol dogs that officers use to apprehend suspects are often Belgian malinois and German shepherds, and many of them come from breeders in Europe. Handlers even use German, Dutch or Czech commands, depending upon where the dog was trained.

Crawford said working on a K-9 team is the most rewarding assignment he has had. “You’ve got your partner with you every day,” Crawford said. “You’ve got a purpose, a goal. … It really hits home when you put the time into it. It all comes together and pays off.”

Crawford said he sometimes fears for Narc’s safety, just as he would with any law enforcement partner. “You worry about people who don’t want drugs detected hurting your dog,” Crawford said. “I had a situation where someone let an aggressive dog loose on him, and (I) basically had to pick him up and run with him.”

Hazards for K-9 drug-detection teams also include needles, glass pipes and the actual drugs, but Crawford said the dog has only received minor injuries, “like crawling on a semi (truck) and twisting an ankle, or getting a toe caught.”

“He’ll use me as a human ladder,” Crawford said. “That’s one of the reasons they don’t make the best house pets.”

Narc does live in Crawford’s house, though, unlike some patrol dogs that live in outdoor kennels. Crawford said Narc is not a risk to anyone, “unless they’re afraid of getting licked to death.”

Narc’s career is drawing to a close. Crawford said the dog will soon retire, perhaps in January. Crawford will once again be in the market for a four-legged partner, and he hasn’t ruled out another mutt. “Who knows, we might do it again.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com