BUTTE - K9 Officer Steve Honer and his partner Officer Blue are inseparable. Even when marijuana was legalized, they trained to stay together so Blue didn’t have to retire.
"Having Blue I learn just as much every day as he does. It’s a never-ending process, you know we try and train at least 20 to 30 minutes a day during my regular work week," said Honer.
Honer and Blue are Butte’s only K9 unit. The K9 unit began in 2014, but Blue wasn’t on the team until 2014 when another dog didn’t work out for the unit.
Honer says the unit has been going strong ever since.
"Learning each other and establishing a bond, learning his tells - it's not like anybody can just grab my dog and go and try to do a search. Even though Blue’s going to go through the motions, they're not going to know what to look for," said Honer.
Blue is certified in tracking and finding narcotics such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines.
When marijuana became legalized, Honer worked and trained with Blue for weeks to learn not to alert to the drug by rewarding him when he ignored and alerted to a different drug.
"He’s rewarded with high drive and high praise and for him, it’s nothing but playtime," said Honer.
The unit has had over 250 deployments, over 90 felony arrests, and over 50 misdemeanor arrests. During their deployments, they’ve seized over two pounds of methamphetamine and under a pound of heroin.
"Blue’s got many different tells and alerts. He is an aggressive alerter which means that he’s going to scratch and indicate exactly where the narcotics are at," said Honer.
Before surrounding agencies in different counties got canines, Honer and Blue were making trips to Anaconda, Jefferson County, and helping highway patrol.
"They saw the benefits of it and now they’ve got their own dogs," said Honer.
Blue will turn eight in December and Honer says his partner is still just as good as a puppy. When it comes time for Blue to retire, he’ll be with Honer until the end.
"Having him as a partner, I mean it’s - I couldn’t ask for a better partner," said Honer.