Elsa the Labrador retriever may look unassuming at first blush, but her nose for illicit drugs has already resulted in arrests and drug seizures.
The K9, purchased with funds raised by Griswold Partnership to Reduce the Influence of Drugs for Everyone, began her work patrolling with her human partner earlier this year.
“She’s with me 24/7,” said State Police Trooper Piper. “I normally work here [in Griswold] on patrol anyway, so she’s up here more. But she works where the need is, and we assist other troopers in Norwich and New London and help Troop F.”
“The whole point is we wanted to bring in extra tools to the tool belt for the troopers to use,” said Griswold PRIDE Coordinator Miranda Nagle. “It’s not just for Griswold and Plainfield. This is a Troop E dog.”
The area policed by Troop E, based in Montville, extends from Griswold west to Sprague and Norwich and south to the shore, encompassing Groton and New London.
It took time to find the right dog and the right handler, and to train the dog for to detect both narcotics and marijuana, said Nagle.
“We’re the first community in the state to raise funds for this sort of thing,” she said.
Piper said that Elsa has been trained to detect opioids, heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and steroids, as well as cash.
Unlike a typical police K9, “she’s a single purpose dog, strictly narcotics,” he said.
Elsa was bred for a high food drive, said the state trooper.
“She has to work to eat, so we work her every day,” he said. “She’s been working very well.”
Elsa came to Troop E about a year ago and began riding with Trooper Piper “to get acclimated.” The pair spent 10 weeks in specialized training last fall, with a full four weeks of imprinting, so Elsa could learn her scents. Piper joined her for the final six weeks of training before the pair hit the streets.
The $3,000 for the dog was raised in 2015, and a ceremony that fall at Griswold Middle School’s Red Ribbon Rally announced the purchase of the dog. State Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro attended the ceremony at the school.
“There isn’t a town in Connecticut or a town in the country that isn’t struggling with drug abuse,” said Schriro at the rally. “I’ve just never seen a town muster as you have. This pup is going to make a big-deal difference.”