September 19, 2002 11:00 pm
SURPRISE SEARCH: Dasty the drug dog looks for drugs with handler Officer Curt White in a search of lockers Thursday at Joseph High School. No drugs were found. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).
SURPRISE SEARCH: Dasty the drug dog looks for drugs with handler Officer Curt White in a search of lockers Thursday at Joseph High School. No drugs were found. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE — Joseph High School students had a surprise visit Thursday from the Enterprise Police Department's newest officer.

Officer Dasty is 5 years old. The male German shepherd is a drug sniffing dog that "didn't cost the city a dime," Enterprise Police Chief Wes Kilgore said.

Dasty did a search of students' lockers. Joseph High School officials agreed that use of the dog was an important tool in helping make sure schools are safe and drug free. No drugs were detected.

Dasty's arrival in Enterprise was the result of a coordinated effort between Union and Wallowa counties.

The $5,000 dog and the $2,000 worth of training for Dasty and handler Curt White were donated by Dallas Voss and his Drug, Assault and Rescue K-9 (DARK-9) business in La Grande.

Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver contributed an old car that White will use for taking Dasty to searches. Fifteen individuals and merchants donated over $1,500 cash, services and materials, including a kennel, dog food and free veterinary service. In addition to electrical work, Enterprise Electric has offered to donate $50 to the program for each conviction resulting from Dasty's work.

The donations resulted from the efforts of reserve patrol officer White, Kilgore said. White is not only assuming the duty of dog handler, but also that of having a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week partner. He will be caring for the dog, keeping it at his home, and training with it .

Another contributor to the program is Enterprise High freshman Danielle Mosteller, 15. She is soliciting further donations. Though the initial basic costs were met, donations are still needed for ongoing needs, Kilgore said. For instance, the donated car has 160,000 miles and has not been completely retrofitted to accommodate a specially trained dog. Donations can be made by calling the Enterprise Police at 426-3136.

Citizens are also invited to call to utilize the dog, as the schools recently did.

Dasty is primarily trained to sniff out drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. Dasty can also be used as a search and rescue tracking dog.

Kilgore has previously worked with dogs. He was a police dog handler for 2 years with the La Grande Police Department. After that he supervised the Umatilla County Jail, where a drug dog was used.

Kilgore, White and Voss have developed a network for the new K-9 program. Voss plans to come up and check on Dasty's progress monthly. Voss planned to bring several other DARK-9 dogs to Enterprise School today for a surprise check and to use the opportunity for a training session.

Another leg of the informal K-9 network is Wallowa County Sheriff Deputy Neil Rogers, who was a K-9 handler in Los Angeles.

"I miss it, but I wouldn't want to do it again. It's a lot of extra work," Rogers said about caring for and training the dog on his time off.

Rogers has a 34-stitch scar on his hand. His dog accidentally bit him after being scared from gunfire. White also has some scratches from training sessions with the 100-plus-pound Dasty.

White and Kilgore are excited about the K-9 program as a tool in conducting drug search warrants, and for use in Wallowa County schools.

Kilgore sees Dasty not only as an additional officer, but also an avenue to improve the relationship between students and the police. Young people are intrigued by police dogs and more schools are turning to K-9 units to help deter drug use, Kilgore said.