In the wake of Stewart Handte’s appointment as Mineral County Sheriff the priorities and structure of the Sheriff’s department

Jake the drug dog poses with Mineral County Sheriff Deputy Natalie Hults. Hults, newly named drug enforcement officer, is in training to use the dog to ferret out drugs across the county. (C.W. Wilkinson photo)

In the wake of Stewart Handte’s appointment as Mineral County Sheriff the priorities and structure of the Sheriff’s department are undergoing substantial change. Among the changes is a renewed focus on enforcing drug and drug trafficking laws.

To that end Deputy Natalie Hults was appointed drug enforcement officer, and assigned a new partner—an 18 month old Springer Spaniel named Jake.

“I take the drug problem in this county very seriously,” Handte said. “I’ve worked interdiction before and I know what is required of Deputy Hults to do her job, and the drug dog allows her to do her job that much more efficiently.”

Jake has served with the department since October 2013, but about two weeks ago was reassigned to Hults so the pair could help ferret out the drug problem in the county.

“The dog’s a very, very helpful tool to find what we can’t because their noses are so good,” Hults said. “They can spot that stuff and we can’t even tell its there. It’s very easy to hide drugs—you can hide drugs almost anywhere—and we can’t always really find them. And he can.”

Jake is friendly and cheerful. He is short and filled to bursting with the frantic energy of a puppy. His tail never ceases in its movement; and he frequently jumps on people, pushing his soft head into their hands, to demand attention.

Jake is not a protection dog, Hults points out. And his friendly demeanor makes that obvious.

Hults said Jake is enthusiastic about his work, and spends most of his time searching every nook and cranny of his environment for illicit substances.

“His sole purpose in life is to find drugs,” Hults said. “That dog wants to find drugs all the time. All day, he can do it for hours and hours and hours, and he could go take a nap, and if he wakes up he still wants to find drugs. He loves it.”

That drive is what makes Jake so valuable, Hults said, particularly during a traffic stop.

“I only run the dog if I think there’s something in there,” she said. “I don’t run the dog just for fun. If I think I have enough proof or reasonable suspicion to think there’s something in the car, and they’re not going to let me try and find it, because they don’t want me to find it, that’s what the dog’s for. He can tell me if there’ something in there that I might not otherwise be able to find.”

But seeking narcotics isn’t Jake’s only job with the department. Handte said he also serves in a public relations role. People like to see canine officers, and Jake will shortly start making trips to Mineral County schools to build a positive relationship with the students.

Hults and Jake are still training, she said, but soon the pair will be an elite drug seeking force.

And Handte plans to put them to work.

“Trust me, as long as I’m sheriff of this county he will be working, along with deputy Hults, pretty much as much as we can work them possible, because we need to get a hold of the drug program in this county,” Handte said. “We need to work interdiction on the highway, because this is the main route between Las Vegas and Reno.”