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    Talking Midge the 6lb Police K9

    6-pound dog newest member of Ohio K-9 unit
    Associated Press
    CHARDON, Ohio - The canvas bag of marijuana is hidden deep inside a chest-high book shelf, tucked behind a framed family photo and a Cleveland Indians knickknack.

    The human eye could easily pass over the drugs, but the bag is spotted quickly by Midge, the newest member of the Geauga County Sheriff Department's K-9 unit, who may very well be the nation's smallest drug-sniffing pooch.

    Though she's only a 6-pound Chihuahua-rat terrier mix who looks like she belongs in Paris Hilton's purse, Midge has the will, skill and nose of a 100-pound German shepherd.

    "Good girl," Sheriff Dan McClelland says as he showers the 7-month old, tail-wagging puppy with praise, the reward canines crave when learning how to find narcotics, people or bombs with their extra-strength sense of smell.

    McClelland began training Midge for drug-detecting duties when she was just 3 months old, after reading about several departments being sued by suspects whose cars or homes were damaged by larger dogs.

    Like most police departments, Geauga County has had shepherds and Labs for years, a three-dog K-9 force now led by 7-year-old, 125-pound Brutus. "This dog has a reputation. When people come out of the jail they say, 'Is the big dog out?'" says Lt. Tom McCaffrey, Brutus' handler.

    Brutus' intimidating, deep-pitched bark disappears, however, when Midge - her name is short for midget - playfully wrestles with him in the grass outside an old jail. The down time comes just before a narcotics training session where Midge watches the bigger dog maneuver through cabinets, heating vents and other spaces in search of marijuana.

    McClelland's idea of smaller can be just as good was reinforced when he returned from vacationing in Canada and saw U.S. Customs officials using beagles to sniff luggage.

    Suzanne Trevino, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service in Washington, D.C., said the agency has used beagles for years, mainly to check fruits, vegetables, meat and other agriculture coming into the country that may carry harmful pests or plant diseases. Besides their manageable size, beagles have a mild manner and hunting instincts.

    Dave Blosser, owner of the private Tri-State Canine Services in Warren, also has begun training smaller dogs for use by police departments and others. His Belgian Malinois have earned spots on departments in Pennsylvania, Michigan, South Carolina and Ohio.

    The breed often used by the military is similar to a German shepherd but smaller - 40 to 80 pounds - and quicker.

    "Genetically they hold up a lot better than the German shepherds," he says. "Size wise, endurance wise they last longer. They can jump fences at 6 months."

    Forty-pound dogs, yeah, but H.D. Bennett, president of the North American Police Work Dog Association, says he's never heard of a K-9 as small as Midge, who nearly fits in an outstretched palm.

    McClelland bought Midge, whose short, white hair is dotted with light brown spots, from a co-worker's relative not long after his vacation.

    The sheriff knew instantly Midge would be a good student for the pint-sized police experiment in Geauga County, whose picturesque rolling farm land and old-fashioned town squares are home to about 90,000 people east of Cleveland.

    "She is very calm. She is not yappy. She likes people a lot, really loves kids," he says as he strokes the dog, who is wearing a black "sheriff" vest and is curled up asleep in McClelland's lap.

    McClelland, a 30-year veteran of the department, takes Midge everywhere with him - she even has a pair of goggles for rides on the sheriff's motorcycle.

    When Midge isn't at work during the day, visiting schools, going on calls and training with the big dogs, she lives with the sheriff and his wife. When Midge's uniform comes off, she becomes an ordinary puppy - a large chew hole in the McClelland's new Berber carpet is proof of that.

    Police dogs must pass a test in which they successfully search for drugs in several places to get state certification. Then they can officially become K-9s and conduct legal searches. McClelland hopes Midge will receive her working papers when she is about a year old.

    The sheriff says he's gotten calls from departments around the country thinking about training tiny dogs like Midge.

    Bob Eden, whose Canadian-based Eden Consulting Group trains police dogs and handlers in Canada and the United States, says he wouldn't be surprised if McClelland's idea catches on.

    "There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a smaller dog for detection work. In fact, it could provide some distinct advantages over larger dogs in that the smaller pups can get into smaller and tighter spaces in order to carry out their searches," Eden says.

    "At the same time, if they are too small, then they could not overcome obstacles they need to in order to cover the area they are searching," he says.

    There may be another potential problem: Police departments have stuck with shepherds for so long partly because of the noble, tough image, Eden says.

    "A Jack Russell terrier may make an extremely capable narcotics detection dog, yet some agencies would shy away from using such a breed simply because the dog doesn't have the same respect level from the public as a Lab or shepherd might," he says.

    McClelland says he's taken some good-intended jabbing from fellow officers, but he's been surprised by the way Midge has helped boost the department's relationship with the community. The dog has received toys and treats in the mail and was the grand marshal for a local veteran's group's Memorial Day parade. She traded her sheriff's vest for an American flag scarf to lead the two-hour parade perched atop a motorcycle.

    Resident Laura Folsom, who works at a paving company in Chardon, says she's seen Midge out and about, including recently at a convenience store where the pair shared a kiss.

    "Oh my goodness, I can't believe it! I think it's wonderful," she said. "It helps put the community and the K-9 unit in a positive light."

    Midge has also become a huge hit in schools and in the county jail, where McClelland takes her to visit well-behaved inmates. Wearing green and white stripes and flip-flops, some of the inmates giggle when Midge licks their toes. Others cuddle her close as they talk with the sheriff about missing their own dogs at home.

    In the classroom, Midge purposely gets passed among tiny hands.

    "I tell the kids, 'Even when you're small, if you take a stand you can make a difference,'" McClelland said.


    Pictures of Midge!
    Last edited by Autumn2009; 08-03-06 at 04:19 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Bark! I said Bark, damnit! BARK BARK.. oh screw it, give me a cookie.

    Oh, pics 8 and 12 just cracked me up
    Last edited by Ducky; 08-03-06 at 05:09 PM.
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    cute dog...hmmmm errrrrr deputy?
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