HEBER SPRINGS — A new “deputy” is working hard to help clean up the drug problem in Cleburne County.
Xinie, a German shepherd, is the new K-9 drug dog for the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office. Xinie joined the department in December, working with Deputy Jeff McLain.
Xinie replaces former drug dog Zeke, who was retired last year because of poor health.
“We didn’t have the money in the budget to buy another one outright,” said Chris Brown, Cleburne County Sheriff. “When I had been campaigning before, people would say, ‘Is there any way we can help to fight the drug problem?’”
Brown, who was first elected in November 2016, said he could have asked the Cleburne County Quorum Court for additional funding but thought otherwise.
“If the people want a drug dog, let them help pay for it,” Brown said. “I will usually give more money if I can voluntarily give it instead of someone taking it. That was the route we wanted to go.”
Through several fundraisers, more than $17,000 was raised to purchase a drug dog and equipment needed, as well as items for drug prevention and education.
“We started looking for kennels and found this place in Kansas,” Brown said. “During the summer, we had a dog named Justice, for a no-cost, no-obligation trial period. During the course of the trial period, we purchased some equipment that was needed for the K-9 program. However, it was determined that Justice would not meet our needs, and the dog was returned.”
Brown said the biggest issue with Justice was obedience.
“Dogs in Arkansas have to have obedience training in order to certify on patrol work,” Brown said. “They are not required to in Kansas, so that kennel isn’t big on training obedience.”
Brown said the county wasn’t out of any money for the dog, and the equipment that was purchased can be used with Xinie.
“Among the equipment purchased were a remote door popper and a heat sensor that automatically opens the rear door if the interior of the truck reaches a certain temperature,” Brown said. “These items are designed to keep the handler and the dog safe, and we’re very glad to have them.”
After Justice was returned, the Sheriff’s Office found another dog, this time at Von Klein Stein in Sherwood. This is where Xinie came from after she was imported from the Czech Republic.
“She’s been here working since the middle of December,” McLain said of Xinie. “I went to school with her on Dec. 4, and that was for two weeks. I immediately came back to work and put her on the street.”
McClain actually got possession of Xinie in November and was able to bond with her before going to training school. Xinie lives with McLain and his other dogs, including former K-9 officer Zeke.
“I’ve got six dogs,” he said. “I’ve got my duck dog and some little lap dogs. I’ve never had an issue with her. The other dog (Justice), I couldn’t get her around anybody else. Zeke didn’t jive with her at all.”
McLain was Zeke’s third handler, taking over with him in 2015 after McLain graduated from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy.
“[Zeke] worked for the department for six years,” McLain said. “He was a single-purpose narcotics dog. From my understanding, he had health issues when the department purchased him. When I got the dog, he really hadn’t been worked in two years.”
McLain took Zeke to a veterinarian, and it wasn’t going to be cost-effective to have any type of surgeries, so he was able to work about a year before being retired.
“I found a lot of drugs with him, but he couldn’t handle it anymore,” McLain said. “Now he lives with me. He’s just a house dog, and he enjoys that.”
Xinie is trained on narcotics, criminal apprehension, protection, article search and tracking.
Brown said the public response to Xinie has been good.
“After we had the first down [Justice], we didn’t make a big public showing, but we did have her at a couple of events,” Brown said. “Then we had to send her back. When we finally got Xinie, we said, ‘Let’s just hang on for a while, make sure she’s going to be a fit before we really make a big deal out of her.”
Xinie has made appearances at Concord School and area day cares.
“She’s great with kids,” McLain said.
Brown said there will always be a drug problem as long as people don’t change how they feel in their hearts.
“The drug problem is not going to go away,” Brown said. “No matter how hard we fight it and no matter what we do, the drug problem isn’t going away until you can change people’s hearts. If people want to get high and escape their reality and their problems, they are going to continue to look for a way to do that.”
Brown said helping to contain the drug problem includes enforcement, rehabilitation and prevention/education.
“That’s the best way we have to fight it,” he said. “And Xinie is just one of those tools to help us do that.”
Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.