JONESBORO, Ga. — She's furry. She loves her toys, and Clayton County Police's soon-to-be narcotics K-9 Rizzo has quite the story in her journey to help law enforcement sniff out crime.
Fourteen-month-old Rizzo may look like many other young German Shepherds, but her story takes her from a stray shelter dog to a future police narcotics K-9.
“Clayton County has four major interstates that run through it, several major highways, and on top of that, we have the busiest airport in the world," Rizzo's handler said.
With all that traffic comes lots of drug use. The county reports that suspected drug overdose calls have gone up by about 30% since 2018.
“She’ll be able to assist in tracking and finding those illegal narcotics and helping to get them off the streets," Rizzo's handler said.
Rizzo's handler, who couldn't reveal his name or show his face on camera due to some undercover work, will train the eager pup to detect drugs.
“We’ll imprint the four main odors on her, which are marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin," Rizzo's handler said.
Though Rizzo's future looks bright, her past paints a different picture.
“She came in as an injured animal, as an injured dog. She had been attacked by another dog," Cpt. Jodi Turnipseed said.
Clayton County Animal Control Turnipseed, a former county K-9 officer, noticed the very smart dog had all the qualities to become a narcotics K-9.
“She just constantly wanted to please me with playing and searching for a toy," Turnipseed said. "I could hide a toy, and she would use her nose to find the toy. She was more motivated by her toys than food.”
“It’s kind of like a rags to riches story. She goes from being in the pound to being spoiled by me and when she gets trained. She gets to live the good life now," Rizzo's handler said.
Rizzo should be ready to hit the streets as Clayton County’s newest narcotics dog in about eight weeks.
She will become Clayton County's sixth K-9. A police dog from a professional breeder can cost up to $20,000, so this saves not only Rizzo's life but taxpayer money as well.