By Pat Caldwell
NYSSA – The newest weapon targeting illegal drugs in Nyssa just hit the streets.
Indigo, a 2-year-old, pitbull-Jack Russell mix, is ready to go.
Indigo joined the Nyssa Police Department three weeks ago and his handler, patrolman Ricky Branin, said he is needed.
Branin said Indigo gives the small agency an added advantage to eradicate illegal drugs in town.
“He can find the drugs a lot quicker than we can,” said Branin.
That’s because before Indigo and Branin began their mission, they underwent 10 weeks of training in Washington. Branin and Indigo started from scratch and trained every day in a methodical program to teach the dog how to root out illegal narcotics.
The first step, Branin said, was teaching Indigo the different odors for each drug.
“Then you have to teach them to sit on the odor when they find it,” said Branin.
Branin, 29, said the next step involves some trickery.
“Then you run and hide it (the illegal drug) and they search until they find that odor. Again, they will sit on it when they find it,” said Branin.
As the training progresses, said Branin, obstacles are added to the sessions. For example, as Indigo searched for the illegal narcotics in a training session, he walked up on food or dog toys placed in his path to distract him. Indigo learned to ignore the distractions and find the illegal drugs.
The training, said Branin, never stops.
The team still trains on a regular basis, including weekly drills with the Ada County Sheriff’s Department’s in Idaho.
Indigo lives with Branin and his wife.
“We work pretty well together. I would have to say it’s nice. I like dogs and how they work, they are very versatile,” said Branin.
So far Branin and Indigo have started their work for the police department slowly.
“We are using him here and there on traffic stops,” said Branin.
But the pace will quicken, Branin said, as Indigo becomes accustomed to Nyssa.
“We will start building cases soon,” said Branin.
Branin, who conducted drug interdiction operations during his seven-year Coast Guard career, was the impetus for Indigo.
“I created the program,” said Branin.
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