Henderson County Sheriff’s Special Assignment Deputy John Daniels sits with his partner in the world of crime detection, and particularly crimes related to drugs. It is believed the Daniels and Benny are making inroads in decreasing the number of drug problems in the county.

Rich Flowers/Athens Review
Athens Review, Athens, Texas

One well-trained member of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office can’t write his name.

Benny, the 4-year-old HCSO drug canine has sniffed out numerous narcotics stashes in his years with the department. He has also demonstrated his ability to detect illegal substances to hundreds of students in area schools.

Special Assignment Deputy John Daniels, a 10-year sheriff’s office veteran, has been Benny’s handler since January.

“Lt. Botie Hillhouse had him before me. That’s kind of a challenge changing handlers,” Daniels said. “We had to get certified together with the NNDDA (National Narcotics Detector Dog Association). That went well. He’s really a good dog.”

Daniels had worked in drug interdiction before teaming up with Benny. He also had some personal experience dealing with dogs.

“I’ve trained a lot of duck dogs,” Daniels said.

To stay sharp, Daniels and Benny undergo six hours mandatory training each week.

“That involves hiding narcotics, and checking his alerts,” Daniels said. “All that training is documented.”

Daniels’ schedule changes regularly to keep the drug offenders from anticipating when he and Benny might be on the road.

Sometimes a drug arrest will grow out of a traffic stop on a minor offense. Other times, Daniels will act on a tip from someone who has information regarding narcotic activity.

“I’m always on call,” Daniels said.

On Nov. 8, Benny helped the HCSO locate drugs that led to two arrests in Murchison.

In that case, Deputy Richard Miller was patrolling in Murchison Sunday when he saw two women at a tire shop.

“They were going through the tires, which is very suspicious when the business is closed,” Daniels said. “They denied consent for the deputy to search the vehicle.”

Daniels and Benny were summoned to the location, and began to sniff the air around the vehicle. Benny began at the right rear bumper, and proceeded up the passenger side of the four-door truck.

“By the time I got to the passenger side front door., he moved up a step, sat down looking straight at the car. That’s my alert,” Daniels said.

Daniels said Benny is trained to give a “passive, non-aggressive alert.”

“He doesn’t paw the vehicle, or scratch the seat up or anything,” Daniels said. “He just sits down and looks at it.”

With Benny’s signal indicating the presence of drugs, Miller and Daniels began to search the truck. It didn’t take long to confirm Benny’s alert.

“As soon as I opened the truck, there was a baggie of marijuana inside the crease in the door,” Daniels said.

Benny and Daniels have made numerous visits to schools this year, as well as career day at Trinity Valley Community College.

“I recently gave the kids in every class at Bel-Air Elementary a demonstration of how he detects the drugs, how he’s rewarded, and what he does to alert,” Daniels said. “The kids are pretty impressed.”

Drug arrests are reported just about every day in Henderson County, but Daniels isn’t discouraged in the efforts to eliminate it.

“I actually think there’s less than there used to be,” Daniels said.

Even so, there’s plenty to keep the HCSO canine and his handler busy for the forseeable future.

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