HELENA – The newest member of the Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office has been on the job for less than two weeks, but she’s already making a difference.
Luna the drug dog and her handler Deputy Mark Wood are beginning their new career in Townsend.
When Deputy Wood grabs Luna’s toy from his patrol vehicle he says, “She knows it’s work time.” And work time means drug detection in Broadwater County.
“Finding drugs…that’s her main thing.”
Luna is an eight-year-old German shepherd, trained to detect drugs and track scents.
Luna began her law enforcement career in Wheatland County. When Deputy Sheila Crow retired, she donated Luna to the BCSO.
She’s been with Deputy Wood for 10 days.
Wood, a retired Washington, DC Metro Police Officer, with 18 years experience handling dogs, said he knew right away that Luna was a keeper.
“I called the Undersheriff. I said, ‘This dog’s on the money,” he said. “So once I can read her and I can go get her certified, we’ll be on the street, trying to get drugs off the street.”
Luna’s keen sense of smell allows her to sense even small amounts of drugs that humans would not be able to detect.
Her motivation is the reward she receives once she hits on the scent of drugs. That reward is a round of play time with Deputy Wood and her chew toy; a two-foot-long cylinder of fur with straps on both ends.
Dogs of her caliber are not cheap to buy or to train. Such a purchase for small departments like the BCSO is usually beyond reach financially.
“Departments here, can’t really afford to buy dogs, some of them can’t. So for us to get this…that’s really nice,” Wood said.
Luna will be a force multiplier for Sheriff Wynn Meehan’s department as his deputies work to contend with drug traffickers running their product on Highway 287, the main corridor between Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Great Falls.
“It’s a small community, it’s a small county, it’s a small office, small law enforcement presence. Very tough to get people’s attention when there’s just a few people out there,” Meehan said.
Sheriff Meehan said his office sees mostly meth and marijuana traveling through and getting dropped off in Townsend.
Luna’s main job will be detection and deterrence. Meehan hopes the word gets out quickly that Luna is on the job in his county.
“That they (drug traffickers) don’t want to come traveling through my area with drugs or bringing drugs here,” Meehan added.
“She’s going to pick up the drugs in a car, or in someone’s house,” said Wood. “If we run her, she will smell it.”
Luna means more to the sheriff’s office than just help to tackle drug trafficking in the county.
Six months after the death of Deputy Mason Moore, Luna is a sign that the office is recovering from a deep loss. The murder of Deputy Moore has had a profound impact on Broadwater County and Meehan’s deputies.
“The community hasn’t felt safe. My deputies haven’t felt safe,” said Meehan. “With the year we’ve had…it’s a good, positive change, to let the guys know, hey, we’re going to keep moving forward, we’re going to keep bringing more tools and better tools.”
Deputy Wood hopes to be certified with Luna by mid-December.
“We just have to get an active dog and start making an impact on the drugs coming through the county.”