New K-9 unit, Bruno, is hard on crime with a soft touch – Bluefield Daily Telegraph

MATOAKA — Police dogs usually seen on crime dramas are big, intimidating canines capable of knocking down and subduing a fleeing felon, but local students learned Thursday that a police K-9 doesn’t have to be aggressive and frightening to fight crime.

Bruno, a yellow Labrador Retriever that now works with Deputy D.A. Calloway of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, made only his second public patrol when he visited Lashmeet/Matoaka School. Unlike other K-9s such as German Shepherds, Bruno isn’t a “bite dog,” Sheriff Tommy Bailey said. Bruno’s main mission is to sniff for controlled substances. His first public appearance was at Princeton Senior High School.

“We bought him especially to take to schools for the kids,” Bailey said. “He’s not a bite dog, so we can take him around the kids. It’s so kids can get to know the police a little better, to let them know that we’re their friends and if they have any trouble, they can come to us. I wanted a dog we could take to schools that the kids could pet and didn’t have to be afraid of him.”

Nothing was found during Thursday’s sweep with Bruno, but the children enjoyed his visit, Chief Deputy Capt. Joe Parks said later. Public relations is among Bruno’s duties with the department.

“Oh, they loved him to death,” Parks recalled. “They really enjoyed the experience, talking to the sheriff, the K-9 handler and Bruno. His soul purpose is to find narcotics wherever they are hidden.”

Bruno will go on patrol with Calloway and use his special detection skills during traffic stops and other searches where narcotics could be present. 

“He’s up to the challenge and he’s up to the job indicated by today’s events,” Parks said. “He’s excellent.”

The daughter of a private donor selected Bruno’s name, Parks said. Bruno cost, with his training, approximately $15,000. 

Besides Bruno, the sheriff’s department also has a tracking dog, Maggie the bloodhound, and a patrol/drug dog named Dali, Bailey said. He hopes to add a bomb-detecting dog to the department. Besides explosives, a bomb dog could also find hidden firearms.

“The bomb dog will be able to detect guns anywhere,” Bailey said.

 — Contact Greg Jordan at