Nfld. & Labrador

From pound to paw patrol, this good boy now celebrates pot-induced retirement

Cannabis legalization means Luke's services are no longer needed but he's still a good doggo, great sniffing ability, 12/10, happy retirement Luke.

Luke was living on the streets before he started protecting them with the RCMP

Before protecting them, Luke used to live on the streets of St. John's. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Luke and his specialized snout have sniffed out $5 million dollars worth of drugs and tainted cash, according to the RCMP — but with cannabis legalization around the corner, his services are no longer needed.

After nine successful years on the force, the RCMP is retiring the former stray.

"He's more than just a dog for me, he's my partner," Luke's long-time handler, Cpl. Mike Pilgrim, said at a "pawty" the RCMP held for the pair Friday in St. John's.

"We've done everything together from looking for drugs, to walks, sleepouts — everything."

The "pawty" on Friday had a special treat on standby for Luke. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Pilgrim couldn't talk about all of the adventures the pair have shared, but the time Luke caught $1.3 million in drug money headed to mainland Canada from St. John's stands out as a highlight.

And then there was the time the Golden Lab mix sniffed out 70 lbs. of marijuana, and several kilos of cocaine, after police pulled a vehicle over on a traffic stop.

The drugs, he said, were "packaged in three layers of Ziploc baggies with Vaseline in each layer, and cayenne pepper."

"And the dog still hit on it from walking around the car. And the suitcase was in the trunk."

Who's a good boy?

"He's a sniffer!" Pilgram said.

But before becoming a drug-sniffing dog, Luke lived on the streets of St. John's.

He was picked up by the pound and when no one claimed him, a staff person contacted the RCMP in hopes the police force would recruit and adopt him.

Luke shakes hands after serving nine years with the RCMP. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

They did just that "right on the spot", according to Cpl. Jolene Garland.

The specialty narcotic-directing course runs a standard 11 weeks but Luke "excelled" and graduated in three, she said, giving him the ability to distinguish seven kinds of drugs — cocaine, meth, ecstasy, heroin, cannabis, hashish and mushrooms.

"Any of our dogs that are trained in cannabis detection are now having to be retired simply because if it's going to be a legal substance, we don't want dogs out there that are going to hit on a legal substance," Garland said.

Cpl. Jolene Garland speaks about Luke at the retirement pawty thrown for the nine-year vet. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Luke is the only dog in Newfoundland and Labrador that the RCMP is letting go.

They have others that can detect drugs but are also trained in firearms, explosives and missing persons.

Staying in the St. John's sun

Cpl. Mike Pilgrim called Luke's retirement "very bittersweet." The change in legislation means their partnership is ending.

Pilgrim is moving to a colder climate and doesn't want Luke to be uncomfortable, so he's leaving him in St. John's with another officer after six years of being together 24/7.

He's got all the bacon strips he needs for retirement.- Cpl. Mike Pilgrim

"He's got all the bacon strips he needs for retirement," Pilgrim said, saying he doesn't want to take him away from his favourite parks and people.

"He's put a lot of service in for all of Canada, for the nine years he's been active as a service dog. I'd like for him to enjoy it here, locally."

Pilgrim called Luke a "soft spoken" and loveable dog.

He's "just someone you can hug and squeeze and yell at and he'll just look at you with those eyes and say 'it's alright, dad,'" he said.

"I just want him to be happy." 

Cindy McGrath, the manager Humane Services in St. John's where Luke turned up nearly a decade ago, said his story is proof strays can do great things.

Cindy McGrath is the manager with the human services at the City of St. John's. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

"People do — I guess, sometimes — assume because an animal is at a shelter that they're broken in some way, or that there's something wrong with them" she said at Luke's retirement.

But animals wind up at the pound when they've had a human relationship that's failed them, she said.

"And I think Luke is a prime example of this, because he's certainly smart and he's had a great career and he'll make a family very happy for his retirement."

Read more articles by CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

With files from Peter Cowan