By Dana Simas, CDCR Public Information Officer

The relationship between K-9 officers and their handlers is one in which not much is spoken, but everything needing to be said is communicated.

K-9 officers cannot verbally let their handlers know when they’re on to something, but the two are so connected the handler is immediately alerted to changes in the K-9 officer’s behavior.

This subtle communication likely recently saved the life of K-9 officer “Tucker” by his handler, Correctional Officer Ernest Trujillo at Calipatria State Prison.

On Wednesday, Aug. 20, Officer Trujillo and Tucker were searching housing units for contraband when Officer Trujillo recognized a sudden change in Tucker’s behavior in front of one particular cell.

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Correctional Officer Ernest Trujillo, with Calipatria State Prison, recently saved the life of his K-9 partner, “Tucker.”

Officer Trujillo searched the cell for any apparent dangers before sending Tucker in to do his job. After an initial search, Officer Trujillo sent Tucker in to find what he knew was there.

During the search, Tucker crawled under the bunk and pulled out a towel, revealing a small lip balm cap containing what Officer Trujillo initially believed to be black tar heroin.

When Officer Trujillo pulled Tucker out from under the bunk area he noticed Tucker’s mannerisms had changed, indicating he may have ingested the drugs. Officer Trujillo immediately began inducing Tucker to vomit before rushing the K-9 officer to the nearest veterinary clinic.

While on the way to the veterinarian, Officer Trujillo was notified the substance in the lip balm cap that Tucker sniffed out — from outside of the cell no less — tested positive for heroin. At this point, Officer Trujillo knew time was precious.

“I can’t freeze up,” Officer Trujillo said about getting Tucker immediate medical attention. “This is my partner, it’s instinct, I can’t let anything bad happen to him.”

The veterinarian injected Tucker with Naloxone HCL, an antidote for opioid poisoning, and kept the K-9 officer for observation.

Thanks to the detailed attention and swift action of Officer Trujillo, Tucker was treated and released the same day.

Tucker, a 2-year old black Labrador retriever, joined CDCR Feb. 28, 2014. He is trained as a passive alert dog for narcotics, which means when Tucker detects drugs, he sits to alert his handler.

When Tucker’s not on the job, he enjoys the company of his friend “Lucky,” another black Labrador who lives with Officer Trujillo and Tucker.

Officer Trujillo has been with CDCR for approximately 14 years, Tucker is his first active K-9 partner. Trujillo said the opportunity offers him “an adrenaline rush” when hunting down contraband.

Tucker may be brand new to this department, but is already making a name for himself.