Limestone County Sheriff’s newest officer can smell trouble at a traffic stop even before the suspect steps out of the vehicle.

The new officer is Kilo, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois (pronounced Mal-in-wah), a drug-sniffing dog with a million-dollar nose.

The Sheriff’s Department paid $10,000 for Kilo and the specialized training that makes her able to identify narcotics.

Her partner and master, Deputy Josh McLaughlin, were recently assigned to highway interdiction in Limestone County. McLaughlin, who has also served the Sheriff’s Department as an investigator, loves the dog and is impressed with her abilities.

“Where we can smell stew cooking on the stove, Kilo can identify every ingredient in the stew,” he said.

Unlike humans, dogs can smell in parts per trillion, which means their noses work 1 million times more efficiently that the human nose. Some say drug-sniffing dogs can find a jellybean on a football field. Both the German shepherd and Malinois breeds possess excellent noses and are easy to train, so they are often favored as drug dogs.

A Belgian Malinois named “Cairo” was used by Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 in Operation Neptune Spear.

The canine cop’s keen sense of smell enables it to detect drugs, bombs, cadavers, bed bugs or what ever it is trained to find. When it finds what it’s sniffing for, it notifies the handler with an aggressive alert, such as digging and pawing at the spot where it smells a drug. Drug dogs are invaluable to law-enforcement officers like McLaughlin because they can find probable cause to search where people can’t.

“If I get a call about drugs at a hotel by the Interstate and I can’t get consent to search, then I can’t make an arrest without probable cause, McLaughlin said. “If Kilo walks around and alerts, then I can search because she has found probable cause.”

Kilo can find drugs anywhere, including in a vehicle’s gasoline tank or buried in a can filled with coffee. Trying to mask the scent of the drug with a stronger scent works about as well as the average restroom air-freshener. Kilo would be able to smell the gasoline and the drug or the coffee and the drug.

Training a drug dog never ends. McLaughlin spends 16 hours a week training Kilo in order to keep her sharp. The team recently took 120 hours of training from Canine Working Dog International in Kansas City, Mo. 

Life isn’t all work for Kilo.

She likes to chew and fetch. On Monday, she had a giant bone — about the size of a human arm — by a tree in her backyard.

“She loves to fetch anything,” McLaughlin said. “Balls, Frisbees, anything.”

Kilo is, by far, the fastest member of the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department. McLaughlin threw a ball for Kilo to fetch and she was off like a shot and back again with the ball.

After having her photo taken Monday, Kilo was in almost perpetual motion, stopping to lay down and pant only once after fetching half a dozen times.  Finding narcotics is as much fun as fetch for Kilo, but for law-enforcement officers and the community, it’s a great service.

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