"I lost it, mom."
"Lost it? Really? You expect me to believe that?"
"Yes, mom, really. I left my book on the hood of the car and drove off and forgot about it."
Sound familiar? That's the excuse given by a Teton County (WY) Sheriff's deputy after losing a package containing 29 grams of methamphetamine.
Authorities worked Wednesday afternoon to literally get drugs off the street after a canine handler realized he may have lost about 28 grams of methamphetamine last week along Highway 22.
The canine handler left a black box — which contained the drug and has white lettering that says “METH” on it — on his bumper and drove away after a training exercise in the area Oct. 27, sheriff’s Sgt. Lloyd Funk said. When the handler, a Teton County Sheriff’s deputy, realized Monday evening that the drugs were missing, he immediately notified his sergeant, Funk said.
Sheriff’s deputies used dogs to search a small area Monday night and conducted additional searches Tuesday, Funk said.
When Teton County Sheriff Jim Whalen was notified Wednesday afternoon of the loss, he ordered a sweep of the area from Spring Gulch Road to Skyline Ranch, Whalen said.
More than 10 officers from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson Police Department walked two or three abreast in both directions Wednesday afternoon as passing motorists slowed to see what they were doing.
A female deputy at the scene said officers had not been told whether they were at liberty to say what they were searching for and directed media inquires to Funk.
The sheriff’s office is taking the loss seriously, Whalen said.
“I know that accidents happened and that people make mistakes, but this is a mistake that should not have happened,” Whalen said.
If a person were found with the amount of meth that was lost — nearly an ounce — he would be charged with a felony, Whalen said. The meth was provided to the sheriff’s office by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for canine training, he said.
During canine training, the dog is rewarded when it’s done its task correctly, Funk said. When the dog found the drugs, the handler likely began praising it, he said.
“I believe what our officer did was get wrapped up in [praising the dog],” Funk said. “After 10 or 15 minutes of that, he put the dog in the vehicle and forgot the substance.”
The handler trained the dog along the roadside to simulate realistic working conditions, Funk said.
The intention is to teach the dog to concentrate on its objective despite distractions such as passing traffic.
Whalen said the sheriff’s office is taking corrective action but that the handler has not been put on administrative leave.
“He’s a good canine handler. He’s made a couple of mistakes here, and so we’re taking corrective action that this won’t happen again,” Whalen said.
As of Wednesday evening, the box containing drugs had not been found. Whalen and Funk asked that anyone who may have found it or has any information about it call the sheriff’s office at 733-4052 or dispatch at 733-2331.