Viper the drug dog dies

The past twelve months have been the warmest ever. Well, they’re the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1895. And, the first half of 2012 (January – June) has been the steamiest first six months of any year on record. Again, since 1895.

All those hot days in the baking sun cause my little pea-size brain to churn a little more than usual, making me wonder if the heat has any real effect on the crime rate and types of crime committed. For example, the past couple of weeks have certainly been scorchers. I see a few heads nodding out there so it must be hot where you are too. Actually, the only place in the continental U.S. where the mercury hasn’t been bumping against the top of the tube is in Washington state, but weird crime is already the norm up there in the top left of the country.

But down here in the real meat of the U.S., things are a little crazy—a man lost his genitals in a freaky fireworks explosion, a woman was shot while dancing with an off-duty cop, a woman high on bath salts attacked a nurse and a police officer, a man beat a two-year-old with a wire coat hanger, a man was found guilty of raping his own mother on Mother’s Day, and a man was sentenced to 11 years for a drug case where a police dog named Viper bit into a package containing cocaine. Sadly, the dog died from ingesting a fatal amount of the drug.

Sure, the dog accidentally bit the package, and I’ll discuss this in a moment, but the part of the story that grabbed my attention lies within the comments made by people regarding the dog’s death, and the fact that 200 people attended the canine’s funeral.

I wonder if it is because of the extreme heat that everyone seems to be so angry about, well, everything. Here, we have a dog doing what he was trained to do…yet, people attack the story as if…well, you be the judge.

The comments below were posted on the Huffington Post regarding the story of the narcotics dog that died from cocaine ingestion:

– The dog was not trained properly

– I NEVER call a cop when I need help. If your lucky, cops leave the situation as they found it. Usually, they make the situation worse.

– The cop is guilty of reckless endangerment for putting the dog in that position.

– I am sorry but this is so over reactionary it is ridiculous. Its a dog.

– I’m kind of surprised that there was this much public support/outcry for the death of a police dog.

– people do not realize this = police dogs are given coke as puppies to get them addicted=thats why they can sniff out the yummy coke

– drug dogs are junkies by the age of 1month=very sad

– Poorly trained dog… good thing it wasn’t explosives…. BOOM !!!

– These gutless cops send dogs in when they are afraid of a situation, then mourn the death like it’s a human. And don’t get me started on cop funerals. Just another excuse to travel on the taxpayer’s buck……

– I think the dog might of had some addiction to cocaine already, I am serious…

– Clearly an improperly trained dog and handler…that’s what we get for hiring “people” with the IQ of a doorknob to police our cities.

– All on duty cops get double time for funerals in most areas. Ensures a big turn out.

– The handler taught the dog to be violent and thats what happens.

– THIS THE QUESTION FOR ALL STUPID COP LOVERS………..READ CAREFULLY AND THEN REPLY…………………………WHEN YOUR DRIVING AND LOOK IN YOUR REAR VIEW MIRROR AND SEE A COP CAR….DO YOU FEEL SAFE? OR ARE YOU SCARED OF THE MEN IN BLUE?

– I HAVE NEVER BEEN HELPED BY A COP. I DON’T KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN HELPED. I DO KNOW MANY PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN HURT BY COPS AS THEY HAVE THERE OWN RULES…..

– What ??!!?? The cop ordered some cocaine, which is against the law, and then induced the guy to deliver it to him! Then the criminal cop’s stupid dog ate the cocaine and the GUY goes to jail for 11 years? The cop should be jailed for animal cruelty! It’s time to put these cops in their place. Cut their wages, no more health care from the taxpayers, and no more pension benefits. Some of these cops get $100,000 a year!

And I agree with a commenter’s characterization of the crowd at the dog’s funeral: the clueless 200! GET A LIFE! People compalin about high taxes, then we have to put up with clown behavior like this!

– heres another dead animal because some lameass with a gun and badge was too lazy. anyone who hides behind a dog to do their job is a coward! if you cant do the job yourself, you shouldnt be working at all!

Okay, you get the idea. These comments went on, page after page after page. And it’s quite obvious that none of these people have a clue how narcotics dogs are trained to find drugs.

First of all, the dogs are never given drugs of any kind to ingest. Actually, the dogs are trained to find a toy, which is later used as a reward for finding drugs. Yes, it’s all a game to these hyper-energetic canines. To them, life is all about the toy. Nothing else matters, with the exception of their handler, and he/she fits in merely because he’s the keeper of the toy. Toy, Toy, Toy!. It’s all about the toy!

During the times when these dogs are not finding drugs, they’re with their handlers, who, by the way, are required to exercise and play with their dogs many times each day, seven days a week. They bath them, feed them, provide water, and clean their kennels. And they train every single day. In the end, after all that…it’s still all about the toy and the game…Play, Play, Play!

When I was in the Virginia State Police Academy, we trained our canines to find a rolled white towel. That was the dog’s toy, and they would climb the highest mountain to find it, and they did so because finding it always resulted in a cool game of tug with the handler.

Eventually, the towels were scented with the odor of a particular drug (we trained our dogs to locate four different drugs—marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and meth). Never were the dogs allowed to come anywhere near the real thing. And, by the way, the scents were pseudo-scents.

So, the dog finds the drug and now he’s extremely excited because he gets to play as a reward for doing a good job. And, without fail, the handler tosses out the towel (or whatever toy is used) and the games begin until the handler is out of breath (the dogs never tire).

Drug dogs are not taught to bite, chew, or even touch a drug. Some dogs, however, are trained to bark and scratch at the area where the drugs are found. Others are trained to sit the second they find a drug.

I believe what probably happened in Viper’s case, was that the animal was so excited and worked up, knowing he was about to play his favorite game, that he bit the package thinking it was his toy. I’m also sure it all happened in a split second, before the handler had a chance to pull his dog away from the danger.

I don’t believe this was a case of negligence, poor training, etc. Actually, I think the dog was doing exactly as it had been trained to do.

Unfortunately, the accident happened and Viper lost his life merely because he wanted to play his favorite game with his favorite person in the entire world.

Still, why all the anger and hatred in the comments? Is it just me, or is this the growing trend, to spew words of hate and anger in every direction without care of the consequences?

Personally, I think everyone should learn a lesson from drug dogs…life is short, so play with your toys and love your handlers, before it’s too late to enjoy them.

  1. Samantha Navarro
    Samantha Navarro says:

    I love it when I read a comment where someone is calling a group of people dumb [like cops] and they misspell a word like “there”. I immediately discount *their* entire comment.

  2. Kathy Crouch
    Kathy Crouch says:

    You know it is sad that Viper died doing his job. And the comments are so typical. Nobody reads word for word on these articles. I’ve scanned the comments section and wondered where the idiot that posted one got their information contained inside the story. Great post Lee. May Viper RIP.

  3. Valerie Ciccone
    Valerie Ciccone says:

    As a dog lover,I think K-9 dogs are special.They are extremely intelligent and from anything I have read they become extremely close to their handlers and their family.Shame on anyone who would think the dog did not deserve to be remembered and was only doing his job.

  4. Gerrie Ferris Finger
    Gerrie Ferris Finger says:

    I’ve written two books that feature SAR dogs (Search and Rescue). I knew a little from my newspaper reporting days, but learned a lot from professionals and Lee is absolutely right. It’s a game. Dogs are roughtly the same mental age as a three-year-old and what do three-year-old humans do? Play. Tirelessly.
    Unfortunately lack of curiosity about the world outside sports and celebrity makes for an ignorant populace. Sandy’s right. Stupidity will never go out of style.

  5. Katherine Nyborg
    Katherine Nyborg says:

    My condolences to Viper’s handler and family, and the rest of Viper’s unit. It’s terrible to lose a beloved colleague.

    I’ve been very lucky to meet some of Seattle’s K-9 unit, and without exception dogs, handlers and the rest of their team had great affection and commitment to each other. Dennis the Bomb Dog (a golden retriever) would sit whenever he sniffed out one of the hundreds of components he was trained to recognize. During our class, he’d go around to all the officers there, and sit next to the guns on their hips, scamming for treats, basking in the attention.

    As to the commenters on HuffPo … well, ignorance begets fear and fear begets hatred (not to sound all Yoda-like). Add in high temperatures and the filters come down and all that crap comes spilling out. Ignorance can be taught, but it seems like most of those commenters aren’t interested in keeping an open mind so much as being “right.”

  6. Terry Odell
    Terry Odell says:

    You know what scares me about this post (OK, not this post, but the original where the comments were made, because everyone here is smart enough to read and comprehend what they’re reading)? That there are so many who will skim the comments and accept them as the truth, without even thinking about the source.

    Terry
    Terry’s Place

  7. Marcia Talley
    Marcia Talley says:

    Alas, calling someone stupid doesn’t make them any smarter. 😉 Thanks for this, Lee. And your last sentence says it all for me: “I think everyone should learn a lesson from drug dogs…life is short, so play with your toys and love your handlers, before it’s too late to enjoy them.”

  8. Dave Swords
    Dave Swords says:

    Perhaps we should feel badly for many of these commenters, Lee. After all, life is hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.

  9. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Hubby tells me all the time that people are stupid and these comments sure prove him right. Sad to realize so many ignorant (criminals or maybe drug addicted?) people live in our society.

  10. Teresa Reasor
    Teresa Reasor says:

    I wish I could say I’m surprised by the hateful comments but I’m not. I think it reflects how many people have been probably been caught doing things they shouldn’t and have payed the price. I suppose they have to get some of that aggression out there somehow.
    I live in Southeastern Kentucky the Meth capital of the universe.And I’m grateful to the K9 dogs and their handlers. Working with the dogs day in and day out you know the officers have to think of them as family. It always breaks my heart when something happens to one of the animals. And I’m sure it breaks the officer’s heart too.
    The same thing can be said for the military dogs. It killed me to learn that thousands were put down in Vietnam instead of coming home with their handlers.

    Thanks for the post. I’m sharing it.
    Teresa R.

  11. Sally Carpenter
    Sally Carpenter says:

    Too many idiots have no life so they spend it posting hateful messages on the Internet. I’ve met K9 handlers and their dogs–all of them are passionate about their work (the dogs too) and the humans would never mistreat an animal. But wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a job that was play, play, play? Those dogs have the best life ever (despite the danger).

  12. Sandra Parshall
    Sandra Parshall says:

    The human race will never suffer a shortage of stupidity. Fortunately, we also have an abundance of intelligent, dedicated people who work in tandem with dogs to locate illegal drugs, track down criminals, and rescue people in both natural and man-made disasters. I admire both the dogs and their handlers, and I appreciate the job they do for the rest of us every day.

  13. Mary Sutton
    Mary Sutton says:

    Wow, I am stunned at the comments. No wait, I’m not. Because in my experience, only the most uneducated or hateful people actually comment on stories. Rarely do I ever see a comment by a well-reasoned person, and if I do, there are unending ad hominem, spiteful attacks on that person. Shameful. I’ve seen police dogs with their handlers, and clearly there’s a lot of affection there.