LAURENS, S.C. (WSPA) – Did you know one way to help protect our schools comes on four legs?

Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds said he considered options with Laurens School District 55 officials on how to try and keep guns off the Laurens District 55 High School campus.

“We talked about metal detectors, firearm detecting dogs,” according to Reynolds. “So, we had a discussion, and the decision was made to get a dog that can detect firearms.”

That dog is an 18-month-old black Labrador named Abel. He went through five weeks of training at Custom Canine Unlimited in Georgia to become certified to detect firearms.

“This dog can detect whether it’s a cartridge that has not been spent,” the sheriff said. “It makes no difference if it’s an empty firearm. He can detect because he detects off the gunpowder.”

Deputy Cody Heithold is K-9 Abel’s handler. They can be seen all over the high school campus and their bond goes beyond the school’s walls.

“He follows me everywhere. I keep him with me anytime I’m at work, even off work I take him places,” Deputy Heithold said.

“You build a bond with a K-9 that you’ll never have with anything else.”

Some students have a fear of dogs, but Deputy Heithold said, “the biggest reaction I get is they’re (students) upset that I can’t really let pet him while he’s working.”

K-9 Abel has proven its ability to sniff out firearms in his opening weeks on duty, but it was well off the LDHS campus. Abel was able to detect a stolen handgun inside a car when called to a scene.

It only took the lab a few minutes to find a magazine, with 17 live rounds, that Deputy Heithold hid in an office at the high school for a demonstration.

“I’d say the biggest benefit to having a firearm detection dog (at a school) is it’s a great preventative measure,” according to the deputy.

“For one, it helps prevent people from wanting to bring one. Number two, if he can catch it, he can stop a massive situation.”