Officers mourn loss of beloved drug dog
By Whitney Skeeters
Morgan County recently lost one of its finest.
Bella was a black Lab approximately seven–years–old at the time of her death caused by internal injuries, and she was brilliant at her job: searching out and alerting her partner for narcotics in the area. She lived with Morgan County Deputy Lisa Reynolds, who acted as a handler, trainer, partner, and friend.
Bella served the community for approximately a year and a half, but in her time here she built an impressive resume. In her work with the sheriff’s department, Bella alerted to heroine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Bella and Reynolds were stationed at the high school and middle school. Daily tasks included walking the halls of the schools, checking lockers, classroom and vehicle searches, and demonstrations in classrooms.
Bella completed 97 school searches in Morgan County and also searched schools in Social Circle, Putnam County and Newton County. Reynolds is not the only one who misses her friend. “I think every student in the middle school has sent me an ‘I’ll miss Bella’ letter,” said Reynolds.
“She really loved all the kids.” Bella became a familiar fixture around the schools, bringing smiles to the faces of everyone, students and administrators alike. Many handlers of working dogs don’t let people pet their dogs, but Reynolds never found a problem with that.
Students loved spending time with Bella, and she loved them back. Bella was also on call 24 hours a day for Madison’s police department. Reynolds and Bella responded to nearly 150 calls to search vehicles, homes, buildings, and even the county’s detention center. When not on call or on duty at the school, Bella and Reynolds spent their time training.
According to Reynolds, who documented Bella’s efforts, she and Bella trained a total of 277 days when they were not on the job.
Although Bella went through rigorous training before she came to Madison, Reynolds had to work with her daily to ensure that her techniques remained in top shape.
Reynolds would constantly switch hiding places and types of drugs during the training sessions to make sure Bella was ready for anything.
In order to better emulate real life situations, she placed distractors around the hidden narcotics. Krystal burgers and tennis balls, two of Bella’s favorite things, were often put in her path. Bella, however, would not be deterred. She knew that if she wanted these rewards, she would first have to earn her keep. She was always able to keep her focus perform to the best of her abilities, and always found the “hide.”
According to Reynolds, “it was all a game to her.”
It was a game at which Bella was very adept.
Bella found trace amounts of narcotics in 25 vehicles, over a dozen cases of prescription violations at schools, and even 10 rocks of cocaine during an open air search in which the suspect fled the scene and dropped the narcotics in the woods.
Reynolds said one time during training, she led Bella to a line of cars and Bella could immediately identify which ones had the narcotics in them, without having to actually enter any of the vehicles. Her first day on the job, Bella responded to a call to search a vehicle and found seven or eight pieces of crack cocaine. “I was so proud of her,” Reynolds gushed. Reynolds is not sure if she is prepared to take on the responsibilities of finding and training a new narcotics dog. “There is a lot of stuff that goes into it,” said Reynolds.
“That’s your partner, that’s your best friend.”