By Melanie Patterson
The North Jefferson News
Do not drive through Morris with illegal drugs in your car.
If you do, you might wind up face to face with the Morris Police Department’s newest crimefighter — Franco, a 125-pound Belgian Malinois.
The dog arrived in Morris Monday morning from the Falkville Police Department, where the Morris department bought the dog for $2,000.
A Falkville officer gave a demonstration with a 9-year-old drug dog and with Franco, who is 18 months old and has received only six months of training.
Morris Police Detective Mike Nazarchyk, who is Franco’s handler, said that Franco found some planted narcotics almost as quickly as the seasoned drug dog.
“His reputation precedes him,” said Nazarchyk. “He already has references. Instructors have noticed how good he is.”
The city had formerly considered buying a drug dog from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. However, Nazarchyk said the Morris department was strongly advised to buy Franco.
Nazarchyk and Franco will soon attend a nine-week handler school in Huntsville.
Nazarchyk will learn more hand signals to give orders to Franco. The dog will learn more types of drugs to sniff out.
“The school will make him to where he’ll be reliable in court,” said Nazarchyk. “After he completes that training, we’ll begin to work I-65.”
He said that Interstate 65 is heavily used to transport drugs north.
“We’re hoping he’ll start paying off when we start working the interstate,” Nazarchyk said. “He’s just going to be a tool in helping us stop the flow of narcotics.”
In the meantime, Nazarchyk and Franco will be learning to work together.
“We have to spend some time together and bond,” said Nazarchyk.
Nazarchyk owned dogs as a child and he helped his father breed and groom dogs, but this is his first time maintaining a working dog.
He said that Franco will fit in well with his family, but will not be considered a family pet.
Nazarchyk said that Franco will be confined in a 10x10 foot kennel at all times when he is not working.
He is on strict feeding and exercise schedules. He can’t have table scraps, but instead is fed a working-dog formula dog food.
“It keeps his energy up. He needs to be constantly energetic,” said Nazarchyk.
His children will not be allowed to play with Franco, but they can pet him and socialize with him.
“He’ll be a bonus as far as my family,” said Nazarchyk. He said that Belgian Malinois are known for their fierce loyalty.
“He considers the family a pack, with me as the alpha dog,” said Nazarchyk. “He will become very protective of us.”
Nazarchyk said that Franco is a pilot dog to see if the Morris Police Department wants to expand its canine force.
“If he does well, we’re considering getting another dog for the night shift,” Nazarchyk said.
For now, Franco is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
By default, so is Nazarchyk.
By Melanie Patterson