More than 'Justo' drug dog

Trooper T.J. Adams and Justo

He doesnâ??t wear a uniform or carry a badge, but he does carry the same responsibility like any other law enforcement officer does.

His name is Justo and heâ??s the newest member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Heâ??s part of the new canine unit that serves the surrounding areas of Northeast Missouri.

His handler, Trooper T.J. Adams, has been with the Missouri State Highway Patrol since 2003, but took on this new position late last year.

So what does it take to be a part of the new canine team?

â??When I was selected for the K9 Position, I went to Cape Girardeau, Missouri for an 8 week training course. For the first couple of weeks, we trained with a couple of different dogs. We worked on tracking, started teaching them how to do basic obedience, and a little bit of drug detection,â?? said Trooper Adams. â??After about the second to third week there, we were assigned a dog and I was assigned Justo, and from that point on, I worked with Justo with everything we did.

Justo is a 22-month-old German Shepherd. He was born in Holland and once he was purchased and shipped to the U.S. for training, he was trained to understand German commands.

And according to Trooper Adams, having a dog as a partner is no easy task.

â??The hardest part is that you go into this position knowing it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work when Iâ??m at home and it's a lot of work when I'm at work, and you go into it knowing that, but itâ??s a lot more than you expect,â?? Trooper Adams said. â??I mean itâ??s a lot of work and you have to understand that a dog is a lot like taking a child with you to work everyday, he wants to play all the time."

But when the time comes, Justo gets the job done. Since November of last year, heâ??s been involved in several school searches, a number of felony drug searches that have ended with arrests, and heâ??s helped apprehend six different fleeing suspects.

â??Without a doubt our troopers and even law enforcement throughout the Troop B area, whether county sheriffâ??s deputies or a city police officer, whether itâ??s in traffic enforcement or enforcement of the law, we work very hard to make our community safe and we do a good job,â?? said Sgt. Brent Bernhardt. â??This is one additional step that can be used in those situations, maybe where we are unable to proceed with our human abilities. So having a canine unit here is just another tool that we have that is going to enable us to do a better job.â??

Not only are they work partners, Justo is also a part of Trooper Adamâ??s family at home, and the bond theyâ??ve developed is unbreakable.

"We've been together long enough now that we've pretty well bonded and he doesn't get too far away from me now without looking to see what I'm at, â?? Trooper Adams said. â??Every day that I go to work with him, I know that if something happens, he's going to help me if he can. Itâ??s a 100% bonus to have a dog with you out there."

And members at the Troop B headquarters in Macon couldnâ??t have asked for a better addition to their team.

â??You know I've been around the Troop B Headquarters for a long time and I can tell you its really neat to have a K9 unit. Of course, Justo has a wonderful personality which matches his handler and have the dog around is something that has been fun for the employees,â?? said Sgt. Bernhardt. â??Obviously he's a working dog and we use him for work, but certainly when he's around the troop headquarters, itâ??s always a joy to see Justo and Trooper Adams around.â??

On average a K-9 dog within a department is on the force for about eight years, after that they retire.

Trooper Adams and Justo will remain partners during Justoâ??s career.