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3 HITS AND A MISS MARK DRUG DOGS' SHOW

It took about 30 seconds for Lars to sniff out a pouch of drugs hidden in the Erie County Holding Center law library for a demonstration to local media Wednesday evening.

The 7-year-old German shepherd, following orders issued in the Czech language, strained at the leash and pawed furiously at the books on a lower shelf, where the drugs were hidden.

Moments later, as Sheriff's Deputy Lucian C. Hudson, Lars' handler led him around the librarian's office en route to another demonstration site, the dog started pawing at the front of a locked cabinet.

Holding Center officials, apparently taken aback by the unanticipated second "hit," asked that another dog be sent up.

Arras, a 3 1/2 -year-old Dutch shepherd trained as a "passive" search dog, was brought up by his handler, Orchard Park Police Officer Robert Schultz. Arras, who takes his orders in Dutch, trotted immediately to that same book shelf in the law library where the drugs had been hidden and quietly sat down, his posture erect and an expectant look on his face.

It took a little longer for Arras to find the new hiding place for the pouch: beneath an adjustable magazine rack on the other side of the library. Down he sat.

"That's how a passive dog indicates," Schultz explained. "You read what the dog is trying to tell you through the body language."

When Schultz took Arras into the librarian's office, it wasn't long before the dog sat down in front of that same cabinet. Schultz cautioned that the cabinet's placement beneath an air vent might be creating false hits.

Sheriff's Department officials set about making phone calls and preparing the paperwork to obtain a search warrant.

Don't think two noses could be wrong? They were.

"We did not find anything in that locker," Mary Murray, a department spokeswoman, said late Wednesday. "We went through the whole thing painstakingly, but we could not find anything."

Downstairs, another demonstration had unfolded before dozens of unsuspecting people in the Holding Center lobby, where they were awaiting visits with prisoners. Schultz led Arras past startled faces, explaining what Arras does and even inviting children to pet the dog.

When Schultz paused before a seated woman, Arras sniffed around and sat down. Schultz told the crowd what had happened.

"She got caught," someone sneered.

The woman was led out of the room by deputies. But it was only for show; the woman was a deputy.

"This was a training exercise," Holding Center Superintendent H. McCarthy Gipson told the visitors.

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