Police dog ready for his gold collar

Charlie is the type of guy people like to have around.

He’s good-looking, friendly, and very eager-to-please. But he also has a special skill his closest friends like best about him — he always knows where to find drugs.

Charlie is a police dog, and sniffing out marijuana, heroin, and other illegal substances for the Port Orchard Police Department is his job.

“He is extremely useful, especially for finding drugs in hidden compartments,” said Chief Al Townsend.

Charlie is particularly adept at discovering drugs that humans overlook, said his handler, Officer Beth Deatherage, because, quite simply, he listens to his nose.

“Humans look with their eyes,” Deatherage said, explaining that often she or other officers will skim over innocent-looking items like highlighter pens or snack cans while Charlie pounces on them, revealing that drugs are hidden inside. “He looks with his nose, so he is never fooled.”

And his nose is so strong, she said, that he can detect drugs that aren’t even there anymore, often finding scent trails in empty bags or on large stashes of money confiscated from suspects.

In such instances, the evidence Charlie provides can lead to additional and often more serious charges against a defendant, such as intent to deliver or distribute rather than simple possession.

In fact, Charlie has done his job so well that Townsend said he wishes the canine officer could work with his department forever.

But at 8 years old — 56 in human years — the black lab is just this side of retirement age, and Townsend said it’s time to think about replacing him.

Although Deatherage said Charlie has at least one more year of top-notch work in him, the department needs to replace him sooner because she will be changing jobs and will no longer be available as a full-time handler.

On May 1, Deatherage will be taken off patrol duties and moved to the detective division, while Charlie will be slowly relegated to a relaxing retirement at Deatherage’s house, his home for the past five years.

“He will still be available on an on-call basis, but in the meantime we will need to find another dog,” Townsend said, which won’t be easy, given that the $8,500 he said he will need for a well-trained police dog — not to mention dog food and vet visits — is not included in his budget.

Funding for a police dog is not something police departments typically budget for, and usually dogs are purchased with donations, often from community members.

Several years ago, Charlie was purchased with a $5,000 donation, Townsend said, explaining that he hoped to plan several fundraisers or other events in order to raise the necessary money for another dog.

For more information, or to donate funds, call the department at 876-1700.

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