If you hide it, Rex will find it.
In his three years on the force, the four-year old jet-black Labrador has sniffed out hundreds of thousands of euro worth of drugs concealed in cupboards, cars, river banks, ditches, under kitchen sinks, air vents, outhouses, wall cavities, and the myriad other places drugs are stashed.
It’s got so that this year, hardly a week goes by without headlines being seen right across Munster detailing Rex’s latest bust.
Rex is a supersniffer who’s trained to detect odours from drugs, guns and cash and he’s one of the four dogs that make up the Garda’s Southern Region Dog Unit.
Rex is not just a high achiever, but an early starter, having passed his course at just 12 months old. He also has a brother on the force in Dublin.
“All he wants to do is play,” says his handler, Garda Pat Harrington. “He’d lick you to death.”
It’s long been known that dogs have a phenomenal sense of smell, thousands of times more sensitive than a human being’s.
“You’ll smell the pizza, but the dog will smell all the ingredients,” Gda Harrington says by way of anecdote.
But very few dogs are cut out for work in the Dog Unit.
“Ideally we’re looking for a very social dog, that’s been in and out of buildings, that’s used to people, is not aggressive and is mad to play.”
While the last part might sound counterintuitive, Gda Harrington explains that while a drug bust is work for the gardaí, it’s really kind of game for the dog.
“The play is that when they find the different things – the drugs, the guns, the cash that they’re trained for, they will get their toy.”
For the past 16 years Gda Harrington has been a stalwart on the Dog Unit team in the Southern Region.
The dogs live out of kennels at his home, and his attachment to them is immense. But, as he points out, they’re not pets.
They’re probably best understood as colleagues.
Sometimes searches can baffle Gda Harrington’s colleagues as in the case of a drug bust in Tipperary where Rex was animated while searching along a garden enclosed by a 12-foot high perimeter wall.
“Right, get a ladder,” Gda Harrington told his colleagues, who were looking at him a little askance. After removing a loose capstone they found a cavity running inside the wall that contained a stash of drugs.
On another search in Mallow, the occupants of a house had tried to mask the smell of a cannabis stash by dousing the house in perfume.
Rex’s reward after every find is to get his toy: a ball on a bit of string.
Retirement can be a bitter pill to swallow. When Snipe, a previous sniffer dog had to be taken off duty, she still turned up every morning at Gda Harrington’s van to report for duty.
“It was heartbreaking.
“You’re driving out, looking in your rearview mirror and he’s wondering ‘why am I not going with you? I’ve been going with you for the last 10 years’.”
But Rex has a fair way to go until his well-deserved retirement day comes.
And in the meantime expect a lot more headlines.
Source: Irish News