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Dog Previews His Sniff Power
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Detection dog Dale sniffs out a T-shirt with some volunteer handling done by Oakdale Junior High School seventh grader Kourtnee Jones at a contraband detection assembly on Jan. 6. Dale showed his skills when he sniffed out a small, unopened bottle of liquor hidden inside a sneaker and sat down by the shoe. As a reward the seven-year-old Labrador retriever got to play with Jones. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

“Dale” the detection dog was on the campuses of Oakdale High School and Oakdale Junior High School on Friday, Jan. 6 showing off his contraband-detection skills with his handler Debra DeShon.
Once Dale was put in his harness, he was ready for work and was presented with several items such as T-shirts and shoes lined up on the gym floor. Dale sniffed each one and sat down by the item that didn’t pass his sniff test. When he finished his task, Dale was rewarded by getting to play with his toy.
The Oakdale Joint Unified School District recently entered into a contract with DeShons’ agency, Interquest Detection Canines, to do periodic and random contraband searches on the two school campuses. OJUSD Director of Pupil Services Larry Mendonca said that the nationally recognized detection agency will conduct at least eight random sweeps during the spring semester, at a cost of $175 per visit. Each visit is about a half day. However, the district may choose to have the canines do more visits.
“Oakdale Joint Unified School District has a number of prevention programs in place and it is the district’s intent to have this service enhance our efforts to keep contraband off school grounds,” Mendonca said. “Oakdale is determined to maintain safe and drug-free schools.”
In order to inform all students and parents, student assemblies were conducted at OHS and OJHS, as well as an assembly held for parents to explain the detection process and to see a demonstration of the Labrador retriever’s contraband detection skills in action. The random detection canine visits will be unannounced.
DeShon said that a dog’s sense of smell is about 1,000 times greater than a human’s and it costs approximately $6,000 to train the dogs. The dogs are able to find illegal drugs, alcohol, gunpowder, and some prescription drugs, she said. The detection dogs will sniff lockers, classrooms and other locations at both schools as well as the parking lots at the high school; however, they will not sniff individuals.
OJUSD has used canine detection services in the past, but Mendonca said the last time the district used a service was approximately a decade ago. He also noted that the district has used Interquest in the past as well.