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Drug Detection Dogs: A Narc with a Bark

Lori sensed something was wrong. She had been observing changes in her 17 yr old son Jacob, and she didn’t like what she saw. Jacob was a polite, sociable youth, with exceptional athletic abilities and academic achievements. He had been the “star player” on the junior basketball team, and a solid “A” student. He was popular with his peers and a teacher’s favorite. But in the past few months his attitude had “shifted”. His grades plummeted to D’s mainly because of his absenteeism. He was thrown off the team because he kept missing practice. He was up all night and slept until 1:00pm each day. He no longer cared about his appearance. And when he wasn’t out with friends, he was isolating in his room having little communication with his family. Lori suspected Jacob was using drugs but really didn’t have any proof…

Lori had heard about a service called Narc with a Bark – who provides a narcotic detection dog to search homes for hidden drugs. She struggled with the decision to call, and felt guilty at this invasion of Jacob’s privacy. However, her concern as a parent compelled her to call. She knew that early parental intervention can make the difference between a family healing or a family tragedy.

Xanax (The Dope Dog) arrived with her handler and went to work. She swiftly searched Jacobs’s bedroom and adjacent bathroom. She became agitated inside the closet and focused on a pair of sneakers. A small plastic baggie with a brown-colored powdery substance was tucked under the insole. Xanax also found a square of discolored tin foil crumpled in the bottom of the bathroom trash can. The handler told Lori this indicated that Jacob has been smoking heroin. At the end of the search, information was provided on local support groups and workshops for concerned families. Lori set up a counseling appointment for the next day to decide what to do next.

Narc with a Bark is an affordable and effective way to break the cycle of denial and confront drug use. Using a drug detection dog that has been specially trained to find narcotics is non- invasive and non-confrontational. The private residence is discreetly searched. If a substance or contraband is discovered – it is the friend or family who decides the appropriate course of action. The service is completely confidential and law enforcement is not involved. The staff at Narc with a Bark are licensed therapists, qualified drug counselors and former addicts. They know how to connect you with resources that can help.

Narc with a Bark was started by Nancy Swanson, a licensed therapist who works at CAST Recovery in Santa Monica. She specializes in working with families in crisis. With over 20+ years in the field of addiction, Nancy has witnessed countless deaths related to drug use. “Many of these tragedies might have been prevented if the family had taken action earlier”, Nancy says “But families often hesitate and want to see proof. While the family waits for the perfect moment to take action, the clock is ticking with the addiction getting worse and the illness progressing. Waiting is dangerous!”.

A self-described “dogaholic”, Nancy already had her hands full with two rambunctious female pit bulls at home. “I really didn’t want another dog – especially another female – but I saw an opportunity to help families struggling with addiction.” says Nancy. So after some internet research, she traveled to Arkansas to visit the Little Rock K-9 Academy. At the Academy Nancy was introduced to Indy (later renamed “ Xanax”).

Xanax is a Belgium Malinois, a dedicated herding dog known for their intelligence and temperament. Malinois have impressive versatility. With their keen senses and physical ability, they excel in detection work. Dogs are utilized in drug detection because of their superior sense of smell. The structure of a dog’s nose gives it a sense of smell that is thousands of times better than a human being’s. Of all a dog’s senses, its sense of smell is the most highly developed.

According to Nancy: “Xanax was born without an ‘off button’…never relaxes and just wants to work constantly.” It is this insatiable play drive that makes Xanax excellent at her job. While searching for narcotics, Xani locates the familiar odor, indicates her “find” by sitting alert near the substance, and is immediately rewarded with her favorite toy. It is the process of positive reinforcement and reward that motivates Xani to work tirelessly at detecting drugs.

The day after Xanax searched Lori’s home and found evidence of drug use in Jacob’s room, Lori met with the staff at Cast Recovery. She was educated about addiction. She was coached on how to handle this information, how/when to confront her son, and given options about treatment programs. Lori decided to stage an intervention with professional interventionist Mike Bayer. At the intervention while surrounded by a supportive circle of family and friends, Jacob admitted he needed help and that his problem was out-of-control. He agreed to go to treatment. And although his journey of recovery is far from over, Jacob is currently approaching 60 days of sobriety and remains in treatment at The Meadows in Arizona.

In the meanwhile, Xanax is currently busy searching homes, finding drugs and contraband, and helping families confront addiction. After a search Xani is content playing with her tennis ball and appears to have no idea the many lives she has saved!

For more information about drug detection dogs visit: or call (818) 749-5724

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Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs, Latest News, Treatment · Tags: Adolescent Drug Abuse, drug detection, drug detection dogs, drug dogs, drug intervention, drug sniffing dogs, Heroin Addiction, heroin treatment, teen drug abuse, teen drug addiction, teen drug rehab, teenage drug addiction is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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