BISMARCK — North Dakota's first electronic detection dog has died just two months after beginning work with the state's Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Special Agent Hex collapsed and died Jan. 31 in Fargo a short time after assisting on a search warrant in central North Dakota, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said.
During a routine checkup on Jan. 22, a veterinarian found the yellow Labrador had an abnormally shaped heart with arrhythmia in the lower ventricle. Further tests showed a cancerous growth on the inside of Hex's heart wall that prevented any kind of surgical operation, agency spokeswoman Liz Brocker wrote in an email.
The dog did not appear to be in pain and was thought to have several months to live, so he continued working with his handler, Special Agent Jesse Smith.
Stenehjem said Hex's death was very sad and noted that he will be missed most by Smith and his family, who took care of the dog at their home.
"Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that it can be difficult to lose a pet," Stenehjem said. "You feel for (the Smith family) because you get connected with the pet."
Stenehjem granted the 2-year-old dog an official badge in December after a demonstration of his impressive nose. Hex was specially trained to detect hard drives, computer chips and cell phones, which is most useful during child pornography and drug busts.
The dog helped on six cases, proving his worth in the short time he had as a member of the bureau's cyber crime unit, Stenehjem said.
Before joining the bureau, Hex spent several months in training with Todd Jordan in Indiana. Jordan gained notoriety in 2015 after Bear, a black Labrador he trained, played a critical role in the FBI operation that put former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle in prison on child porn charges.
Hex was taught to sniff out a chemical used in the manufacturing of electronic storage devices and then rewarded with food after indicating the location of the device to a trained handler, Jordan told Forum News Service in December. At the time, Jordan said Hex was "a fantastic worker" with "a goofy personality that everyone will love."
The bureau received Hex via a donation from Operation Underground Railroad, a California-based non-profit that aims to assist governments in efforts to stop human trafficking and the spread of child pornography. NBC reported that the specially trained dogs cost nearly $20,000.
Stenehjem said the bureau will receive another talented dog from Jordan's company at no cost to the state. Smith will again serve as the handler and caretaker of the dog.