FORTVILLE — Havoc led with an eager wiggling nose, searching the nooks and crannies of the Mt. Vernon Middle School gymnasium.

The dog detective, a German Shepherd and Malanois mix, hovered for a moment next to a glass display case on the wall at the edge of the basketball court. The Shirley police K-9 paused for a moment before sitting on his haunches and glaring at the location, signaling to his handler he’d found something that shouldn’t be there.

A crowd of middle school students in the gym’s bleachers gasped as Shirley’s Town Marshall Brian Pryor revealed the pooch’s discovery, holding up a 3-ounce plastic baggie of crystal meth, hidden earlier that day.

This was just a demonstration, but when Shirley cops make a real drug bust, their trusty K-9 officers aren’t only useful for sniffing out hidden illicit substances, Pryor said. Havoc is trained in tracking and apprehension; so if a suspect runs, he likely won’t make it very far.

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Detective Brent Burris, Pryor and Havoc held a demo of their drug-detecting skills Tuesday at the middle school. Convocations like this are a great opportunity for law enforcement to make a positive connection with youth and educate them about the dangers of substance abuse, Pryor said.

Burris’ daughter, Nicole, is a student at the middle school, so he and Pryor took the opportunity to reach out to principal Ben Williams to see if he could organize an educational demonstration showcasing Havoc’s abilities.

The principal said he saw this as a chance to send students a message about the dangers involved in the world of drugs. Williams agreed to Burris’ proposal; he was eager to let the policemen come visit with their fierce and furry friend, he said.

A teacher wearing a bite-proof suit ran away from Havoc to simulate a fleeing suspect for the final part of the demo. The police dog closed the distance and went in for a take-down before anyone could blink.

Havoc skittered across the gymnasium floor, then pounced and latched onto the “bad guy’s” arm with his powerful jaws. While safe from injury, the teacher was immobilized by the dog’s vice-like grip, making escape hopeless.

Williams and the students watched Havoc make short work of stopping the pretend suspect. The room was soundly convinced that attempting to evade law enforcement was a bad idea, he said.

After the demo, Pryor let Havoc visit with some of the students; with the serious work behind him, the pup happily allowed the youngsters to pet and play with him.

It’s hard to believe what that friendly pup is capable of, Williams said.

“I tell you what — I wouldn’t want to mess with a police dog,” Williams laughed. “No way.”

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Evan Myers is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3228 or emyers@greenfieldreporter.com.