HOULTON, Maine — He is the youngest, the smallest and the only employee who doesn’t draw a paycheck, but he is paying big dividends for the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department.
The department was celebrating Wednesday the official certification by Law Enforcement Training Specialists International of Maxx, a 3-year-old Czechoslovakian German shepherd, and his handler, Sheriff’s Deputy Mitch Wheeler, as an advanced narcotics team. The dog has been training for the certification since Wheeler got him in September 2008.
“This is very exciting,” Aroostook County Sheriff Jim Madore said Wednesday. “Maxx’s purchase and training expenses were covered by a grant from United Way of Aroostook, so all of this comes at no expense to our taxpayers.”
The approximately 75-pound Maxx has a beautiful, rich sable coat. He already has met Maine Criminal Justice Academy certification requirements by his training in narcotics detection, tracking, evidence recovery and obedience. The academy requires that dog and handler teams complete a minimum of 320 hours of training in narcotics detection, 200 hours in tracking and 80 hours of in evidence detection to be certified in these areas.
Maxx became a law enforcement dog after his first owner approached a canine trainer when Maxx’s high energy level and mischievous nature became a little too much to handle. The Sheriff’s Department and Wheeler were looking for a dog to train, so Maxx’s first owner sold him at a low price to the department.
Wheeler said that Maxx is a devoted animal who is good with his wife and children. He loves people, he said Wednesday, and already has successfully conducted several marijuana finds, located money taken in a robbery and tracked a suspect whose path was confirmed later when the suspect confessed.
Maxx rides in a specially equipped SUV, which features his kennel, an alarm system that helps regulate the dog’s body temperature and a door popper to allow Wheeler to let the dog out of the SUV when he is some distance away from the vehicle.
He said that the dog already has diffused potentially volatile situations.
“All that people have to do is hear the dog and they calm right down,” he said. “I’ve seen attitudes do a 180-degree turn when they hear the dog and see it in the SUV. He is a great partner.”
Madore said that the department would not have been able to purchase Maxx without the support of the United Way of Aroostook.