Springers In Law Enforcement: Mindy & Bonnie’s Stories
By Sue & Gene Sutton, Woodlander ESS, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine
It was on Thanksgiving day that Mindy Charis Jubilee joined our family. She was an eight week old companion for our eleven year old male Springer, Sabastian. At that time we had no specific plans for this little girl, except to be part of our family. When Mindy was eight months old, though, Gene decided to see if Mindy could use her Springer traits to aid him on the job as a Maine State Trooper. Having owned and trained Springers to hunt, this task was new, but not totally different.
In September, 1989 Trooper Sutton and Mindy were accepted to the Maine State Police narcotics school, a six week training program. A narcotics dog is required to detect the scent of five narcotics – marijuana, hashish, cocaine, crack, and heroin – for a reward, a tennis ball. They are trained to search schools, warehouses, airplanes and luggage, personal and commercial vehicles, boats, people, and residences. The most difficult part of the program was that all the other dogs were German Shepherds and aggression trained. Mindy managed to form a romance with one of the shepherds, JD, and the two of them graduated despite the distractions. Mindy was one of the youngest K-9s to complete the school, finishing before her first birthday.
Mindy rides daily with patrol K-9 German Shepherd Riley, who joined our family six months later. Together the two K-9s and Trooper Gene Sutton go through their daily routines unless called for special duty. Mindy is usually called on by officers in need of extra dogs due to her reliability in doing her job well. She can outmaneuver the Shepherds because of her size, and her drive as a hunter proves an advantage in her quests to complete a search. Being an English Springer Spaniel on the police force has had other advantages; since Springers are so irresistible, Mindy has helped children in trauma situations by just being their friend. This aids officers in getting information from a child who is frightened or hurt and unwilling to talk to strangers. Mindy has also helped children learn the dangers of narcotics through school demonstrations for the D.A.R.E. program.
Mindy and Trooper Sutton have enjoyed a colorful and productive career. They have assisted U.S. Customs, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Maine DEA, and many local agencies. They have traveled the ocean and searched the smallest fishing boats to the most elaborate yachts to enforce the law. Mindy has no trouble going up and down ladders, hopping from boat to boat and riding six foot swells. She has also been called on to search planes travelling into the country suspected of carrying contraband.
K-9 Mindy is responsible for hundreds of drug seizures, and recovering money and personal property related to narcotics trafficking. U.S. Customs has requested Mindy to conduct searches at the Canadian/U.S. border. In one evening Mindy searched over thirty vehicles and located narcotics in four of them. She is called on the scene after agents perform a visual search. One of Trooper Sutton’s favorite stories was of a search of the residence of a drug dealer suspected of selling to high school students. The agents searched the residence but came up empty, so they called in Trooper Sutton and Mindy. As Mindy began her search Trooper Sutton could tell by her excitement that drugs were present. After a few minutes Mindy was dancing on her hindlegs in the bathroom looking at the ceiling. After a second strong indication Trooper Sutton finally convinced agents to take down part of the ceiling. Agents located a large quantity of narcotics and drug paraphernalia in the ceiling, just where Mindy indicated they would.
On September 6, 1998 Trooper Sutton, Mindy, and Riley were driving to the Blue Hill Fair to perform a K-9 demonstration. While operating through an intersection in La Grange a person failed to yield the right of way and struck the passenger side of Trooper Sutton’s cruiser. This forced the cruiser into the opposite lane, striking another vehicle head on. Mindy was leaning against the passenger side door that was hit, and as a result suffered a fractured pelvis through the hip joint, and a separation of the pelvis from the sacrum (lower spine). The trauma also caused a faulty heart rhythm. Riley was bruised, but otherwise uninjured. Trooper Sutton suffered neck, back, and arm injuries.
Mindy was transported to Penobscot Veterinary Hospital where Dr. Ingraham took responsibility for her care. It took several days to stabilize Mindy’s heart before they could anesthetize her to take x-rays. Dr. Ingraham consulted several specialists after reviewing the x-rays, and decided to operate. Using bone clamps and surgical screws, Dr. Ingraham reconstructed her pelvis and hip. After two weeks, Mindy began to hop on three legs. Three weeks later Mindy still wasn’t using her left rear leg, so a second operation was performed. The rehabilitation was slow, but after three more weeks it proved successful.
Mindy’s first night back on duty she located cocaine and related paraphernalia on a motor vehicle stop. Thanks to the extra dedication of Dr. Ingraham, the staff of Penobscot Veterinary Hospital, and the Special Service branch of the Maine State Police, Mindy is continuing her ten year career serving the citizens of Maine.
Sheena’s Ebony Lady, “Bomber Bonnie,” came to us at the age of seven months needing a home. Her drive for tennis balls won our hearts. She soon became Gene’s bomb detector. Unlike Mindy, who was trained to point, scratch, and speak to indicate a “find,” Bonnie needed to be trained to sit when she located a bomb. A bomb dog must memorize over twelve different scents. Her reward – again, a tennis ball!
After the Oklahoma bombing, bomb threats were everywhere. Post offices, schools, airports, all received threats. Bonnie was called to a search almost weekly. On one occasion when Bonnie was called to search a school, she searched over 350 lockers. She indicated on one locker, and that locker was secured; however, a careful inspection revealed nothing. Puzzled and dismayed, Trooper Sutton began asking questions. School officials informed him that over 1000 black cap firecrackers had been removed from that very locker the day before the bomb threat. Mystery solved.
Bonnie has provided security clearance for President and Mrs. Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, former President George Bush, Maine Governor Angus King, the president of Haiti, and even former Hell’s Angels informants. In her career of four years, Bonnie performed over 100 searches. Bonnie has done her job well and gained much publicity. She recently retired due to recurring nasal infections, making her job too risky. She now finds birds and squirrels, as well as food on the kitchen counter, her main source of entertainment!
Living with these girls has been quite an experience. Watching them work in public is very rewarding. Mindy is still Top Dog in the cruiser, and still the “other woman” in Gene’s life. She loves her job, and to watch her work is to see the ideal picture of a Springer’s grace, beauty, and intensity.