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Nero for zero drugs

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Sgt. Brad ONeil and partner Nero, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, patrol Estacada High School looking for illegal substances on Monday, April 13.Wherever Sgt. Brad O’Neil of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office points, Nero bounds with a big, doggy grin.

The 10-year-old Belgian Malinois is having “fun time,” said Officer Jeff Argubright of the Sandy Police Department as he leads the pair through the halls of Estacada High School.

“They’re more than willing to help us wherever we need one since we don’t have our own,” said Argubright, one of the Sandy officers assigned to Estacada.

O’Neil and Nero perform the search during a Level 1 lock-down drill at Estacada High School on Monday, April 13.

The dog bounds happily from locker to locker and sticks his nose into stray purses and backpacks after a classroom is vacated, sans belongings as part of the drill.

O’Neil said Nero is trained to detect marijuana, heroin, meth and cocaine.

Should he catch a whiff of the substances, the dog would try to get as close as possible to the odor and “sit and stare at it,” O’Neil explains.

Jim Carey, Estacada High School intervention counselor, said the school didn’t want the kids to know the police dog was coming, but once there, wanted the student body to know of the patrol.

“We think he’s a deterrent,” Carey said of Nero.

“Estacada, like all schools, will occasionally have someone that thinks they can get away with that,” Carey said in reference to students bringing illicit substances to school.

“We don’t have a lot of that action from our kids,” he said.

Officials hope that when students catch wind of a drug-sniffing dog having patrolled the campus, they will be even less inclined to bring controlled substances onto school property.

“The biggest thing is kids knowing there’s a dog going through the school,” said O’Neil. “The prevention part of it.”

O’Neil has been working with Nero for most of the dog’s life.

Nero goes home with O’Neil at the end of the day, where he enjoys being an outdoor dog and playing with toys.

“When he’s at home, off duty, that’s his time to just be a dog,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil added that the two check school campuses upon request from school administrators.

He estimates they perform less than one school search a month.

Nero is one of Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office six drug-sniffing dogs.

Nero, along with the late Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office police dog, Mik, is the star of a series of public safety themed children’s coloring books produced by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

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