One of the newest additions to the Newton County Sheriff's Office will be staying at the detention center, but not as an inmate.
Chobe, a 3 and a 1/2-year-old female Belgian Malinois, was recently purchased from the Temple Police Department in Caroll County using funds donated by the Conyers Kennel Club. Though the NCSO has had other canines, Chobe is the first canine dedicated mainly for the Newton County Detention Center, though she'll be available department-wide.
"I think she's going to make a big difference here," said Deputy Ginger Stabile, who was selected out of eight applicants to be Chobe's handler. "People put stuff in places I don't want to mention."
Drugs also sometimes come into the visitation area with visitors who try to dump them in the trash cans, she said. "Hopefully, this will be a deterrent."
Conyers Kennel Club president Watson said the non-profit club, which has 60 members throughout Newton County, Rockdale County and Henry County, decided to donate the money last year when they heard Newton County might lose a dog. The club usually buys two or three bulletproof vests a year for working law enforcement canines at the cost of about $1,100 each, but decided to put that money towards the purchase of a new dog instead and wrote a $3,000 check last fall.
At $3,000, Chobe is considered a bargain, especially since she's already trained to find drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines, said investigator Sgt. Sonny Goodson, who was central to acquiring Chobe. Training alone can cost around $2,500 and take about two years, and a fully trained dog can cost upwards of $10,000, according to Watson.
Eventually, Chobe will also be trained to track people, said Stabile. For now, both canine and handler are going through a bit more training, mostly to let Stabile learn how to read Chobe.
"Her nose is 1,000 times better than mine. I have to learn what she's trying to tell me," she said.
Chobe uses a passive alert by laying down when she finds something, which is somewhat unusual among sniffing dogs, instead of a more active signal like scratching or barking, said Stabile.
"I believe she's going to be one of our better ones," said Goodson, a canine handler himself. "I can tell by her temperament. She seems to like what she does."
He described the personality of a Belgian Malinois, a type of herding dog, as typically being high energy and direct. For instance, he said, if you tell them to get something on the other side of the table, they might leap over the table instead of walking around it.
Chobe's energy was on display at a recent March 10 dinner and facility tour to thank the Conyers Kennel Club for their donation. Her small, tan-and-black head swiveled back and forth as the 15 attending club members cooed and clucked over her.
But despite the distractions, Chobe was able to focus and find a small packet of marijuana hidden in the room in less than a minute during the drug finding demonstration.
Lt. Bill Watterson also presented the club with a plaque of appreciation and senior staff members let the club know how much their efforts would help the department and community.
The NCSO is building a kennel for Chobe behind the detention center, but for now, she's staying with Stabile, allowing the dog and handler to bond.