A dog named Abbey who has a nose for heroin, cocaine and other narcotics

Officer Grant Spencer talks to the Alhambra Source about his partner, K9 Abbey, a trained narcotics detection dog. One of three officers in the city's K9 drug detection team, Spencer tells the Alhambra Source's Tina Zeng about how Abbey alerts him of for illicit substances in the schools, and the challenges and joys of having a dog for a partner.

What is a typical day like for you and your partner?

Officer G. SpencerAbbey and I show up at around 6 AM and attend our briefing with the rest of the patrol officers. Our main responsibilities within the school district are to go into campuses at random and conduct narcotic searches of the interiors of classrooms, lockers, and students’ belongings.How long have you been working with Abbey?

Abbey and I started working together in the beginning of July of this year. I am a school resource officer and Abbey is an added responsibility that I’ve received to provide more services to the Alhambra School District. Having the police department come in with a K9 to search for narcotics is a fairly new program for our school district.

  • What is the process for K9 searches for narcotics at schools?

Abbey and I will randomly visit the classrooms chosen by an administrator. During the search, Abbey will sniff the air for odors of narcotics as well as the books and the backpacks and desks while all the students and teachers are outside. Abbey is trained in detecting odors of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and well as their derivates. If she were to find an odor, Abbey will alert me by sitting and and staring wherever she located it.

  • What do you like most about working with Abbey?

Abbey lives with me and we spend most of our time together. She doesn’t talk back to me, but I can read Abbey and her moods and she also feeds off my mood. You can see that change of behavior with the dog based on how the handler is feeling that day. That's called, “it goes down the leash.”  So it helps for us to always have a positive attitude.

K9 Abbey goes home with Officer Spencer everyday.Is it typical for all handlers to have their dogs come home with them?

Yes, the handler most of the time will always take their dog home because they need to create a bond and trust between each other.

  • What do you need to take into consideration that you otherwise wouldn’t have if you had a human partner?

Alongside all my other duties, I need to maintain Abbey's health and well being during the day. I also have to make sure she is provided water and the opportunity to use the restroom, and that’s the biggest difference between having a dog and a human partner –  they can hopefully manage that on their own. When she’s in the back of the car in the kennel, I need to be checking on her and maintaining a certain temperature within the vehicle. Abbey always will have a bowl of water in the back and every couple of hours, I make sure she has a chance to stretch her legs and go out into the grass. She’s not in the car too much in the day because we’re out on the campuses of the schools.  I’d like to think of myself if I was back there how I’d feel and make sure she has the opportunities for breaks.What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had with Abbey?Just about every day it’s a rewarding experience to have Abbey.  It’s not our goal to walk out of a school with a big bag of drugs. Our goal is to walk in and find nothing. Most of the time that’s the result. The kids within this district are overall very good students and good citizens. Abbey just gives them another reason to say “No” and have that student think: "Hey, I really shouldn’t carry those drugs to school because Abbey and Officer Spencer may show up". It’s just giving another tool or avenue to have students stay away from narcotics.Is it often that the kids at the school want to pet Abbey when you go onto the campuses?

  • Kids always want to pet her. She looks cute and cuddly.

Do K9s ever sniff a person?We never have the dogs search a person or specifically sniff their clothing– that goes for our patrol dogs also.

  • Where do the dogs go when they retire? Do they remain with the handler?Once a K9 is deemed unable to continue work as a narcotics dog or patrol dog they are offered to the handler. Most of the time they go with their handler and live out the rest of their life at their home. So they just become a normal dog and get to hang out in the backyard.

Interview was condensed and edited. The Alhambra Source regularly asks a few questions to interesting residents and workers. Have someone you think should be profiled? Send an e-mail to info@alhambrasource.org.

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