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In age of legalized pot, ‘Blitz’ joins the State Police force

New-generation police dog does not alert to cannabis

A 50-pound Belgian Malinois dog known as “Blitz” plays with Trooper John Ritchie with Illinois State Police District 17 based in LaSalle. Blitz has joined the forces of the state police but is a little bit different from the district’s other two canines — Blitz isn’t certified for cannabis, which means he doesn’t alert officers to the scent.
A 50-pound Belgian Malinois dog known as “Blitz” plays with Trooper John Ritchie with Illinois State Police District 17 based in LaSalle. Blitz has joined the forces of the state police but is a little bit different from the district’s other two canines — Blitz isn’t certified for cannabis, which means he doesn’t alert officers to the scent.

A Belgian Malinois dog full of energy has joined the Illinois State Police District 17 forces based in LaSalle.

Blitz, less than 2 years old, graduated from ISP canine certification school in November and has since worked with Trooper John Ritchie on his shifts practically every day since.

“The canines are such a great resource to have,” Ritchie said.

Blitz joins two other District 17 dogs. But he’s is a bit different than the others.

He’s not certified on cannabis, which means although he can smell the substance as someone can smell Doritos or a car freshener, Blitz doesn’t alert officers to the scent.

The dogs in the two most recent ISP K-9 classes aren’t certified on cannabis, Ritchie said.

“We have to test him on cannabis to show that he’s not alerting to it,” he said.

The K-9 dogs still are full-service dogs certified to find methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin and the derivatives such as crack cocaine or black tar heroin, he said.

Blitz weighs about 50 pounds, which Ritchie said is nice when it comes to training. Some other police dogs can weigh 80 to 100 pounds, Ritchie said.

“When you’re animated, they get animated,” Ritchie said. “The more you’re having fun, the more they’ll have fun.”

Ritchie plays tug-of-war with Blitz — “It’s much easier with a 50-pound dog versus a 90-pound dog. Your back feels a lot better afterward,” Ritchie said with a laugh.

When people think of a police K-9, they often think of narcotic work, which is a big portion of the work the ISP handles, Ritchie said, but the dogs provide many more benefits in addition.

“They’re also a great resource especially with the colder months if someone gets lost,” and if a child runs outside in the cold temperatures without a parent noticing and needs locating or if a senior with Alzheimer’s wanders off, Ritchie said.

Blitz also can track article searches, so if there’s a crime, the dog can look for evidence such as shell casings and knives.

“They’re not robots, they’re not perfect. The more training you put into your dog, the better they’ll respond, just like in anything else because they’re a living being. It’s a huge responsibility,” Ritchie said.

In addition to working with Illinois State Police, Blitz already has been an asset to local police departments.

“He’s a great tool and a resource to be able to be called upon for all the local agencies and everybody in the surrounding area,” Ritchie said.

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