A DOG used to sniff out drugs in hospitals has been putting her new handler through his paces.
Coco the cocker spaniel was hired to prevent the use of illegal substances in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust’s mental health hospitals in the summer.
Before the brown dog joined the drug-busting team, it would have taken up to two weeks to arrange a search, but Coco has helped to speed up the process.
Now she is to work alongside dog handler John Ashworth, and has been guiding the former Metropolitan Police officer through the wards.
The pair will work across the trust, which includes hospital wards in Sunderland at Monkwearmouth Hospital, and the new Hopewood Park site, in Ryhope, which is to replace Cherry Knowle Hospital.
John, 49, who worked in police force search teams for 30 years, said he is enjoying the challenge.
“Since I began working with Coco, we have really got to know each other.
“Through her, I have enjoyed meeting some of our trust’s service users and visitors,” he said.
“She has also become part of the family with my other dogs, and we hope to get out and visit more of the Trust’s sites in the future.”
Coco will live with John, who has three cocker spaniels – Figo, his former police search dog, and show dogs Jake and Lucy, who take part in agility competitions.
Gary O’Hare, director of nursing and operations at NTW NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Since Coco began working for the trust, she has made a fantastic contribution in ensuring the safety of everyone who receives treatment, or visits one of our sites.
“I would like to take this opportunity in welcoming John to the trust.
“I am sure this new partnership with John and Coco will continue to be a great success.”
When Coco is not acting as detective, she works in wards for elderly patients and children as a “pets for therapy” dog.