By Dana Simas, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Correctional Officer Jimmy Chastain and his K-9 partner Mickey recently showed off their skills to a group of fifth-graders at Notre Dame Elementary School in Vacaville.
The pair participated in a drug-detection demonstration to show the kids how the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) uses the specially trained dogs to help keep California prisons clear of narcotics.
The rambunctious kids were thrilled as Mickey raced into the gym, certain that she’d find the hidden narcotics in one of the boxes displayed on the ground.
“Whenever she finds the ‘bad stuff,’ she gets her toy,” Officer Chastain told the kids. “It’s like ice cream to her.”
The kids had dozens of questions about Mickey.
“Is she your dog?” one of the students asked.
Officer Chastain said while Mickey belongs to CDCR, she goes home every night with her handler to enjoy some much-deserved rest and relaxation after a hard day’s work.
“Work is play and home is rest,” Officer Chastain said.
To be as effective as possible in narcotic-detection, it is important that when Mickey is at home for the evening she rest and not exert too much energy. A tired dog is not an effective drug-detection dog.
Mickey didn’t appear to be short of energy as she soaked up all the love and affection from the group of elementary children, despite a full day of training at California State Prison, Solano.
“How many times does she get the toy?” another student asked.
“Anytime she finds (drugs), she gets the toy,” Chastain responded. “Today was about five or six times.”
Mickey is a 6-year-old black Labrador retriever who was rescued by CDCR from the Society for the Protection of Cruelty against Animals at no cost to the department.
She is trained as a passive-alert canine, meaning she is trained to sit and stare at an object when she detects the odor of contraband. The other kind of K-9 used by CDCR is an active-alert K9 trained to bark and scratch when the odor of contraband is detected.
Officer Chastain has been with CDCR for eight years and has been a part of the K9 operations since March 2015.
“The best part of being a handler is the interaction between Mickey and myself,” Officer Chastain said. “(It’s great) being able to take her home every day, working and training with her and seeing the excitement she has when alerting to narcotics.”
One of those big finds came in October 2015 when Mickey alerted to some wooden blocks next to one of the vocational buildings. Inside the altered wooden boxes they discovered 270 grams of marijuana, 29.7 grams of methamphetamine, seven cell phones, seven phone chargers, one digital scale, 89.7 grams of tobacco and three packages of cigars.
The team is definitely off to a great start.