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K-9 visits students

April 14, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Murmurs quickly spread through the Mill Creek Intermediate School gymnasium Thursday afternoon when Bruno, a state police K-9, walked in.

His tongue hanging down, Bruno high-stepped among the school's fourth- and fifth-graders and garnered a laugh when he tried to grab a microphone held by his handler, West Virginia State Police Trooper Kevin Plumer.

Plumer and Bruno visited the school to give a narcotics search demonstration. Students at the school gave Plumer a check for more than $1,200 to buy Bruno a bullet- and stab-resistant vest.

A 5-year-old Dutch shepherd, Bruno has been with the state police for about six months, Plumer said.

Although he has done drug searches in schools before, sitting before hundreds of students seemed to make the dog anxious.

"He's very wound up right now," Plumer told the students.

Plumer put three cardboard boxes on the floor, one of which contained a medicine bottle scented with heroin. A "passive indicator," Bruno sits when he detects cocaine, heroin or marijuana, the three drugs he is trained to sniff out.

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Before the large group, Bruno picked up the boxes with his mouth and shook them, tearing them apart. Plumer eventually appeased the dog by giving him his rubber "Kong" toy. Bruno receives the toy as a reward when he works, Plumer said.

Afterward, students said they liked the demonstration.

"I thought the dog was awesome. It was a police dog, for one. It can smell drugs and stuff and it can save people and help people," said fifth-grader Justin Loizos, 11. "If we didn't have that dog, a lot of people would have been badly injured or killed."

When Loizos and a group of boys standing with him were asked whether they will ever use drugs, all shook their heads.

"Are you crazy?" Loizos asked.

"I thought he was funny because he was trying to bark but couldn't," said Mitchell Loudan, also 11 and a fifth-grader.

When the group of students applauded or cheered, Bruno barked, but it was muffled because of the toy in his mouth.

Plumer said a tailor-made vest for Bruno will cost around $960, meaning enough money will be left over to help pay for another. Trooper T.C. Kearns also has a K-9, named Bram.

A much-needed item, a vest would have helped protect Bruno on a call he answered a few hours before coming to Mill Creek. Two men had broken into a home, and Bruno was sent in first to find them. He succeeded and was not injured, but could have been if the intruders had a weapon, Plumer said.

Mill Creek's K Kids, a junior Key Club, organized the fund-raiser for Bruno, raising the money in eight days. Fifth-grade teacher Nicole DeGrave is the K Kids adviser. She said the group set of goal of $1,000.

Plumer said he was pleasantly surprised to find out they raised more than planned.

Bruno answered 78 calls from Oct. 17 to Dec. 31 last year, Plumer said.

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