MOSCOW, Idaho – A new, expertly trained member of the Moscow Police Department uses his nose to do his job.
Ragnar is a 20-month-old yellow Labrador retriever who joined the force this summer to sniff out illegal drugs. His expressive brown eyes, swishing tail and playfulness belie the seriousness of his work – to detect heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl, said Moscow Police Chief James Fry.
As the department’s first drug-detection canine, “he’ll help get drugs off the street that are highly addictive and killing people,” Fry said, adding that the city has seen an increase in cases involving hard drugs in recent years. Meth accounts for the highest number of such cases the department has responded to, jumping from 28 cases in 2020 to 41 in 2021, according to data.
Like Ragnar, fewer dogs are being trained to detect marijuana as more states legalize it for recreational purposes. Although marijuana remains illegal in Idaho, Moscow residents can drive to where Idaho shares the border with Washington state to legally purchase up to an ounce of it at a dispensary just outside the town.
“For me, it’s still against the law,” Fry said, and people will continue to be arrested for violating Idaho’s law, he said. In the meantime, police will be the ones detecting marijuana, not Ragnar. “It’s a drug that we as humans can smell,” he said.
Corporal Ryan Snyder is Ragnar’s handler. The two trained together in Indiana for five weeks before flying to Moscow, where Ragnar appears to have landed firmly on his paws. During off hours, he lives with Snyder and his family. When working, he rides in the back of a shiny K9 SUV with Snyder at the steering wheel. When searching for illegal drugs, it’s done with a wagging tail.
“I grew up in Moscow with working dogs and long wanted to be a canine handler,” Snyder said. “Working together is an ideal fit for Ragnar and me.”
Ragnar received his certification – the canine version of a badge – on June 14, he said.
Not only is Ragnar trained to turn up illicit drugs in hidden places, but his cuteness and friendly demeanor make people feel good being around him, as was apparent by all the smiles and high-pitched praise he drew during a recent public event in downtown Moscow.
“Ragnar amazes me every day with his intelligence and his nose,” Snyder said, “all while still being your typical goofy Lab pup.”
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