Seated on the back of Paco's special trailer are Paco and three narcotics officers who handle him. They are (from left) Officer Stacy Halbert, Sgt. Jimmy Evans, and Officer William Covington.

     Paco is a great worker for the state of Texas, but he doesn't realize that. He thinks he's hunting for his chew toy, which he loves more than anything. As it happens, his chew toy has the distinct odor of marijuana.
    This young chocolate Labrador has achieved the highest certification possible from the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association. He can go into a noisy, distracting prison, with thousands of odors, and find hidden drugs. A prisoner has nothing to do but think of a hiding place Paco can't find. Paco always wins. Besides marijuana, he can identify cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.
    Paco is four years old. He was almost one year old when some other narcotics canine officers and I visited the shelter where he had been left. At the time he didn't strike us as a potential drug-sniffing dog, but he was so friendly that - hard-bitten lawmen that we are - we decided to take him with us and find him a home. It didn't take him long to show us he belonged in the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice. His retrieval instinct was strong, and he took to the intensive training joyfully.
 We treat Paco well. He is fed once a day at a precise time with special, healthy food. We've had a company design a special transport trailer with plenty of room for him to move around and be comfortable. After all, he may ride for miles and miles to an assignment.
 w To keep him cool in the Texas weather, the middle of the trailer can be packed with ice, which evaporates as air comes into the overhead vent ­ his own air conditioning system! Actually, it's a two-animal trailer we sometimes use to transport our bloodhounds, Bonnie and Clyde. But Paco is in it more often, because our team is responsible for all of the northern part of Texas. Paco may get into his trailer in Palestine and step out the next time in Amarillo.
    Besides law enforcement work, Paco and I present programs in schools to try to prevent kids from starting drug use. Sometimes I think every school kid in Texas has petted Paco. He loves it!
    The state of Texas doesn't budget money to buy narcotics-sniffing dogs, so they either come from a shelter, as Paco did, or they are donated to us. We need dogs with strong retrieval instincts. Labs, Belgian Malinois, and German shepherds are great. They don't have to be purebred; mixed breeds can be outstanding working dogs. If you have a candidate dog you would donate, call me at 903/928-2623. We'll see if your dog qualifies.
    I can tell you, though - your dog will have to work to beat Paco...and he's the best!

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