The newest addition to the McAndrew family in Bel Air has a nose forcocaine, heroin and marijuana.
But the Mr. and Mrs. aren't worried about their new family member, Mac. After all, snooping for drugs is what he's spent months training for and enjoys most.
Mac's a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever. On Friday he graduated from the difficult, nine-week-long K-9 dog narcotics training course, administered by the state Bureau of Drug Enforcement.
Mac willbe the partner of Trooper 1st Class Andy "A.J." McAndrew. In return for snooping out illegal drugs, Mac gets to live with McAndrew, his wife and 3-year-old son. They are enjoying his addition to their household.
"Mac is a real people-oriented, friendly dog," said McAndrew, who trained Mac to sniff out drugs.
Mac is one of six dogs out aclass of nine who passed the most recent training course. To pass, dogs must detect hidden illegal narcotics a minimum of 90 percent of the time on tests.
Now that he's done with graduation -- held at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions Friday in Woodstock in Baltimore County -- Mac will be assigned to work in bus stations, airports and train terminals.
Chuck Jackson, spokesman for the state police, said dogs are used to detect hidden narcotics because their sense of smell is 1,000 times stronger than that of humans.
"The dog will give probable cause for a search warrant," McAndrew said.
If Mac detects the aroma of narcotics in a suitcase or hidden on a person, he will sit, McAndrew said. That's the clue for policeto detain the person or seize their luggage until a search warrant is obtained.
As a reward for locating drugs, Mac is given a ball.
"They associate (drug searches) with playing ball," McAndrew said. "We give them the ball right there." Mac's love of retrieving balls was one of the reasons he was chosen for this line of work,
said the trooper.
McAndrew, who joined the K-9 squad six months ago, originally began training a Chesapeake Bay retriever, named Reds. But Reds was too aggressive and there was concern that Reds might bite someone.
So Reds was transferred to the highway patrol narcotics division where he would not be required to walk in crowded airports and busand train stations.
But the transfer of Reds left McAndrew without a canine partner. But a phone call to the Northeastern Kennel Club,headquartered in Bel Air, solved the problem. The organization puts on dog shows and serves as a breeder referral service.
For this type of training, McAndrew said he needed a hunting dog with a keen sense of smell, who liked retrieving balls and was between 9 months and 2 years old. Police had found great success with training labradors, so a lab was on the top of McAndrew's search list.
Joan Taylor, president of the kennel club, helped McAndrew locate the appropriate dog.
"This dog couldn't have been better if he had been written for the part," Taylor said, adding that Mac had a "good nose" and temperament.
The kennel club voted to purchase Mac at a cost of about $400 and donate him to the department. "We decided we would donate him since it was for a good cause," Taylor said.
Mac will continue to live with the McAndrews, unless the trooper is promoted to another department, in which case Mac will go to live with another family.
Unlike dogs trained for patrol and protection, Mac's career will not bea dangerous one. "It's not dangerous at all -- unless the dog ingests the drugs," McAndrew said.
But the McAndrew family plans to makesure he's well fed and cared for and won't have a need for that.
* Mac is scheduled to demonstrate his skills at a picnic presented bythe kennel club on Aug. 6 at Friends Park in Forest Hills. The public -- and dogs -- are invited.