With his small size and friendly personality, Nikita hardly resembles a stereotypically menacing police dog.But both traits make him perfect for his new role: He has been specially trained to assist the Worcester County Sheriff’s office in detecting drugs.
The nine-month-old lab-terrier mix recently completed a 14-week canine training program at the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office with his handler, Sgt. Thomas Chabot of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.
Through this training, he learned to detect illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamines.
But he also can search and find prescription drugs, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxycontin and other opiate-based derivatives.
This skill has become crucial, Sherriff Lew Evangelidis said, as more young people abuse prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse has become as popular as marijuana use among young people, he has said.
“That’s a watershed change,’’ he said. In that way, he said, Nikita is “ahead of the curve.’’
His friendly personality makes him less threatening, Chabot said, and eliminates the threat of biting. Because he participates only in drug searches, he does not need to have an aggressive personality, he said.
And his size allows him to work in tight quarters, such as in drop ceilings, car trunks and small vehicles, where drugs may be stored, said Nick Barber, deputy of special services for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.
Nikita will be used during investigations and is available for community use if drug sweeps are needed.
The dog will also serve as a “deterrent’’ by searching prisoners who leave the prison to participate in community programs, for example.
He can also sniff cells and visiting areas. “We won’t do it all the time,’’ Evangelidis said. But he hopes that because prisoners know a search could happen, that will discourage potential problems before they happen.
“Some successes can’t be measured,’’ he said.
Nikita has come a long way, literally. He was originally a “sato,’’ a homeless dog that roamed the streets of Puerto Rico. He was rescued and shipped to the Sterling Animal
Shelter through its successful sato program which gives these dogs a chance to find homes.
The shelter donated Nikita to the sheriff’s office after it was determined that the dog would be a good fit.
Evangelidis was grateful for the donation, because traditional “police dogs’’ can cost significant amounts of money to obtain, he said. The training was also free because it was provided through the sheriff’s office in Plymouth.
Evangelidis is no stranger to the
Sterling shelter. He owns two rescue dogs, including a sato. One of his dogs was adopted from the Sterling shelter.
Evangelidis said he was “thrilled’’ to welcome the latest team member.
“Nikita’s keen ability to detect the scent of both illicit drugs and prescription opiates gives our department a highly cost-effective cutting edge tool in narcotics detection and public safety,’’ he said.