DMV officer from Derry makes her last collar Duchess retires after 11 years in drug enforcement

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Gov. Scott looks on while Duchess and Heberts check out the chew toy. Photos provided

At the end of February, Gov. Phil Scott honored a long-time employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles upon her retirement. He presented the Londonderry resident with a gift he and the first lady had picked out personally to honor the contribution she had made to the agency.

Duchess, a 12-year-old English black Labrador retriever, couldn’t have been happier with the chew toy shaped like a tire.

For the past 11 years, Duchess has been the partner of Sgt. Mark Heberts of Londonderry, who works in DMV enforcement for the Agency of Transportation. Heberts is a sworn officer who enforces the state’s motor vehicle laws and investigates commercial vehicle crashes.

Duchess is a “detection dog” trained to recognize seven drug odors, and has assisted in seizing hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs. Duchess and Heberts have been together since Duchess was 9 months old.

Duchess with Sgt. Mark Heberts

“We trained together,” says Heberts, noting that over the years, he and Duchess have also trained and worked with Chester Police canines and with the late Sgt. Mark Phelps and Chief Rick Cloud.

It isn’t old age that is sidelining Duchess, but a health issue.

Laryngeal paralysis – which causes Duchess to pant when excited – has made her sniffing job more difficult and made it time to retire. State policy says that after a dog is retired, the handler has the option to keep the animal.

“That was a no-brainer,” says Heberts.

Heberts notes that Duchess is still in “awesome shape,” acting like she’s half her age and whipping that little tire chew toy with a rope attached all around the yard.

Duchess with Heberts’ daughters on her first day of retirement. From left, Molly, Meredith, Duchess and Moriah

Since her retirement, Duchess has been on a couple of nature hikes and has had plenty of time with Hebertses’ three daughters. But what Duchess still really wants to do is jump into the truck when Heberts leaves for work.

“Now I have to sneak out of the house,” says Heberts. “That’s the hard part.”

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