The Middlesex County Sheriff's Office has announced a new member of the department's K-9 team.
Ajax is a former seeing-eye dog who was trained over 14 weeks at the Essex County K-9 Training Academy, according to a press release from the Sheriff's Office.
Ajax was trained to recognize the scent of marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroin and hash through a process known as "drug imprinting," described as follows by the Sheriff's Office:
"Drug imprinting is a process by which the dog is trained to associate the scent of a drug with “play”. The dog must be highly motivated to play with his trainer for hours at a time. When he goes out on a call, his instinct is to detect the scent of drugs which he associates with play. If he finds it, he is then encouraged to play by his handler. If the dog begins to scratch vigorously at a specific location, the area is searched for drugs."
Ajax has already been put to work, and has been responding to two or three calls per week. He joins a K-9 team that already includes two bomb and gun sniffing dogs, according to the release.
The Middlesex County K-9 team is used around New Jersey, aiding municipal police departments, Rutgers University police, the Monmouth County Transit Police, the Union County Sheriff’s Office, the New Jersey State Police, the Middlesex County Narcotics Task Force and the Somerset/Middlesex County Task Force, according to the release.
Ajax is handled and cared for by Sheriff's Officer Joseph Cruz and his family. Cruise and the dog must continue their training and be re-certified two times a year, according to the release.
Cruz also handles an additional active K-9 dog, and houses a retired K-9 dog.
For more information about the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office's K-9 team, call (732) 745-3382.