GREENWOOD, S.C. (WSPA) – Greenwood Police Department’s K9 officer Astor fights crime with neither bark nor bite, but with his nose. The 2-year-old black German shepherd helps the department sniff out contraband and track down suspects.
Astor joined GPD in 2020 after being purchased with grant money. Since then, according to the department, he’s been deployed over 100 times, finding drugs carried by suspects nearly 80 times.
“He really loves narcotics work,” Officer Jay Lavier, Astor’s handler said.
The two have worked together since November, sharing a tight bond and strong trust. Although Lavier estimates he spends as much time – if not more – with Astor as with his own children, he lives his dream job each day.
“It’s pretty much a dream come true,” he said.
The two wake up each day at 5 a.m. and Astor woofs down breakfast, eagerly anticipating the day’s work. After letting the food settle, Lavier and Astor head to the station.
“As soon as he hears the car crank up, he’s ready to go,” Lavier said.
The two patrol together, looking for suspicious activity in the community. If other officers find it first, they call Lavier and Astor for assistance. Since dogs’ noses are estimated to be roughly 40 times better than humans’, the K9’s help in traffic stops is invaluable.
He can sniff out even the best-hidden drug stashes. Lavier says his partner still has a lot of playful puppy energy. Because he was trained to associate the smell of narcotics with getting to play with his favorite toy, Astor’s enthusiasm for his work is paralleled by none.
“He has really distinct ways of telling me,” Lavier said. “He’ll do a lot of sniffing, a lot of tail wags. He’ll give me a final response with a sit, letting me know he’s at least smelled something.”
In addition to being the department’s top drug buster, Astor is also a successful tracking dog. Using his nose to follow human scent, he can help track missing people, suspects on the run or any items once held by people.
In 2021, Astor helped the department track down a murder suspect who had seemingly all but escaped.
“He was long ahead of the officers, just because of the nature of the pursuit,” Sergeant Jonathan Link said. “Astor got down on the ground and tracked him all the way through an area into a house he’d run into to hide.”
Astor’s keen sense of scent led the department to make the arrest.
“When we’ve got these bad guys out here that run from us that like to run to places and hide, well, they can’t hide from Astor,” Chief T.J. Chaudoin said.
Chaudoin hand-selected Astor to be the department’s dog in his first few months as acting chief. He said Astor’s good nature and superior skill were the perfect combinations to meet the department’s needs.
“I mean, it’s just a tool that you can’t have any other way,” he said.
To Lavier – and to the department as a whole – the K9 is far more than just a tool, though. Ask any officer who the most popular employee at the station is; everyone will say the same thing: Astor.
With big feet, a big head and an even bigger smile, he cannot help but to make people smile.
“Anytime he goes in, anywhere, he brightens it up,” Lavier said. “He’s got a great personality, super fun to be around, a lot of puppy left in him.”
Because of the department’s whopping success with Astor, leadership is looking to secure funding for two more dogs. GPD hopes to have a total of three K9 teams on staff by the end of 2022.