Police dog earning her keep

Madison's helped with over $1.5 million in seizures

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By Maria Maxham

Forest Park's police dog Madison, who's been officially working for the department since March 2018, is more than earning her keep. Between January 2018 and 2020, she has assisted in the seizure of over $1.5 million in drugs and drug-related money, a portion of which goes back to the Forest Park Police Department.

Madison, certified by the state and the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA), works with officer Dan Miller, who has been a canine police handler since 2011. Madison is the fourth dog Miller's worked with, and she lives with him and Diesel, a canine retired from the Forest Park Police Department due to back issues.

Her predecessors in the department, including Killian, who was retired in August 2017 after two biting incidents, were trained to assist in apprehending suspects. But Madison, a German short-hair pointer, is only – but fully – trained in narcotics detection. She assists the Forest Park police department and neighboring departments in drug searches, something she's become quite good at.

According to Miller, Madison is about 90 percent accurate during training and helps the police locate heroin, meth, cocaine, MDMA, crack, mushrooms and cannabis. (Even though marijuana possession is now legal in Illinois, the limit a person can have at one time is 30 grams, and it's supposed to be in an odor-proof container.)

Madison is a passive indicator, which means she quietly alerts Miller to the presence of narcotics, rather than an active indicator, which might dig or scratch when drugs are found.

For the Review, Miller demonstrated Madison's skills by hiding drugs in different locations, then directing her to search. She did, sniffing around the areas she was asked to investigate, and successfully stopping in front of the places where the drugs had been placed.

Imported from Croatia by Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania, she was purchased by the Forest Park Police Department for $9,250. Miller and Madison began training at Full Circle K9 Solutions in January 2018, and still spend at least 16 hours a month training. Madison officially went on duty with the department in March 2018, and she and Miller have been working together ever since.

Madison's assistance in seizures paid for the Forest Park police department's sally port where suspects are brought into the station. The money came from seizures in which Madison was involved.

Madison goes everywhere with Miller. His car has a cage in the back with a heat sensor that alerts Miller if the car gets too hot for Madison and will also automatically roll the windows down to make sure she doesn't overheat. And in addition to carrying Narcan for potential human overdoses, Miller carries some for Madison too.

"There's always the possibility of accidental ingestion," said Miller, and he wants to keep his partner safe.

Miller said one of the reasons he originally wanted to work for the police department in Forest Park was because of their canine program.

"I love animals," said Miller.

After Killian was retired, it was Miller who advocated for a narcotics detection dog, an alternative to permanently giving up the canine program within the department. He said working with a pointer is different from working with German shepherds, which was the breed of previous Forest Park police dogs. One challenge, said Miller, was that at first, she always pointed at bushes.

"They're naturally hunters," explained Miller. "You can't fight genetics." He discovered that if he wrapped her drive toy in feathers, he could get her to seek it out regardless of where it was, reducing her urge to always try to look in bushes.

Miller said he loves working with Madison, who has a lot of energy and is eager to please.

"She's awesome," said Miller. "She's a really good girl."

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