In good hands: CO reacts quickly to save K-9 partner

Correction Officer Ernest Trujillo reacted quickly when he realized his K-9 partner Tucker was in trouble

By Ashley Garst
C1 Associate Editor

Fourteen years with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would leave anyone ready for anything, and Corrections Officer Ernest Trujillo proved that in September of this year.

He and his K-9, Tucker, have been partners since February; together, they ensure that drug contraband within the Calpatria State Prison is quickly located and confiscated.

Tucker is a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever who is trained as a passive alert dog for narcotics, meaning when he detects drugs, he sits to alert his handler.

A typical day for them starts off searching different common areas for drug interdiction, then moving into cell areas.

“We just come in early to search the cells, where the inmates live,” Trujillo said of the day in question. “I run him through the building and usually he’ll have a change of behavior in front of a cell that has narcotics inside of it.”

Trujillo said that he went through specialized training in order to read Tucker’s behaviors, giving the two a unique type of communication.

“That’s what happened that day; we did a cursory search of the cell and everything looked good,” Trujillo described. “I wasn’t sure what alarmed him, so I did a more thorough search, following where his nose was going, trying to see what his changes were going to be.

“Then I noticed a little chapstick cap with a black tar substance in it. I grabbed Tucker’s collar, and when you grab their collars they try to pull forward. He just really wanted to smell it and he ended up licking it. It’s another way dogs smell.”

That desire to smell the contraband put Tucker in a bad way.

“When I saw [him licking it] I pulled him back, and I could tell that whatever he had licked was something foreign to him. I noticed his mouth was foaming and I quickly resorted to my training.

“I took him outside to my vehicle and gave him peroxide to induce vomiting. Then I rushed him to the vet.”

Once there, the veterinarian injected Tucker with Naloxone HCL, an antidote for poisoning.

Trujillo says he knew almost immediately that Tucker would be OK.

“The vets are very good. They train with other agencies and are very familiar with dogs that have had drug exposure. I knew he was in good hands.”

Thanks to Trujillo’s quick reactions, Tucker was treated and released on the same day. They’re both back on the job, and have had success in stopping drug contraband since.

“We’ve had quite a few finds in the short time we’ve worked together.”

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