New age of Scooby-Doo

Dandy, Prospect's own Scooby-Doo, seeks out illegal substances in school environments instead of solving mysteries (Photo by Mika Evans).

By Katie Best
Staff Writer
Much like the mystery solving canine Scooby-Doo, Dandy the Golden Retriever comes to Prospect’s rescue.  Although Dandy may not be like the talking, lovable Great Dane depicted in the late ’60s cartoon, Dandy is a “mystery solver” in another sense.  Dandy has a high play drive for her canvas toy, much like Scooby-Doo has his addiction to Scooby Snacks.  Only when Dandy receives her “reward,” she hasn’t solved a mystery involving witches or ghosts but found residue of drugs or alcohol within students’ cars or lockers.
Scooby-Doo may be able to talk and obtain Scooby Snacks after a solving a mystery with the gang, but Dandy gets to spend time with her own Shaggy as well as obtain favorite toy, a canvas covered chew toy.  The toy that Dandy obtains is her reward for having a find.  When handler, owner, and partner in stopping crime, Glenn VadeBonCouer doesn’t allow Dandy any other toys at home, it’s for a reason.
This has to do with the training that Dandy had to endure to become the drug dog that she is today.  As puppies, certain dogs with a “high play drive” are chosen to be put in training to become drug dogs for the company Interquest Detection Canines of Chicagoland.  Before they can actually become the drug sniffing heroines  that we see in the halls today, they must go through and pass a twelve week training course.
“It’s the building blocks to learning,” VadeBonCoeur said about the training course.
The first step of the course is to make sure the puppies are interested in the toys that are being put in front of them.  The toys are thrown and played with, hence the reason why the puppies need a high play drive, until the trainers decide that they are ready for the next step.
The next step in the course is to hide the toys.  Since canines have a highly developed sense of smell, they are able to smell their toy even though it is hidden.  The toy is then hidden in a specific location.  When the dogs are sent out to attempt to find their toy, the must give a specific sign such as pawing the area or sitting near it to their handlers when they find it.
The third and final stage of the training is when the toy is not only hidden, but it is accompanied with the scents of the substances that Dandy is trained to find in schools.  These substances can be anything from various types of alcohol and gun powder to Ritalin and marijuana.  This teaches the dogs that when they recongnize these certain scents, they can receive their toy.  The dogs don’t have any judgement when they are finding these scents, they just know that they will get their toy in return.
“It’s like a game,” VadeBonCouer said. “They never want to quit playing the game.”
Even after the dogs have gone through all of their training, they still want to play the game that has clearly become their lives.  While laying down on the floor, Dandy constantly is fidgeting and restlessly moving about, VadeBonCouer claiming it is because when she’s not working she tends to get bored.  And although the training that Dandy went through will last for a lifetime, VadeBonCoeur still carries a small vile of vodka in the pocket of his shorts.
“It allows me to reinforce odors,” Said VadeBonCoeur. “And makes the game fun for her.”
Most people tend to start off at an early age with their dogs, but VadeBonCoeur and Dandy have only been working together for a mere six years.  The tag team started at Prospect in February of 2003, with the push from Dean Pat Tedaldi-Monti (Or Doc T as many students call her).  Tedaldi-Monti wanted the school to be safe and secure, and she thought that having a dog that could detect certain substances was a start to getting there.
“We try to be about caring, not catching,” Tadaldi Monti said.
Some may think that students reacted with regular teenage angst and dislike, but many students were perfectly fine with the fact that a drug dog was around.  According to Tedaldi-Monti, it was nothing like the huge, frightening German Shepards that came to the school before and put everyone on lock down.  Dandy is a complete 180 compared to those shepherds, the golden retriever known for always having her tail wagging and open to slobbering on some one’s face.
“We thought [Dandy] was a perfect fit for Prospect,” Tedaldi-Monti said.
Although Dandy may be a perfect fit for Prospect, she may not always find the bad guy.  Both Tedaldi-Monti and VadeBonCoeur agree Dandy is “good at what she does”, but a little mishap here or there won’t discourage anyone, especially Dandy.  VadeBonCouer never said the dogs were “magicians or Superman.”  As Dandy continues to sniff and strut down Prospect’s hallways, it is known that the school will be safe and sound.
Just like Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, the tag team of VadeBonCoeur and Dandy the drug sniffing golden will solve the mystery and keep Prospect safe and drug free.