A real-life McGruff is taking a bite out of crime in Colombia, sniffing her way to high-profile drug busts -- and now, the cartels have started taking notice.
One Colombian drug syndicate has already put a $70,000 bounty on Sombra's furry head, looking to quickly quash the 6-year-old canine crimefighter, officials said.
The German shepherd has already followed her nose toward a record number of drug detections, finding illicit stashes hidden in suitcases, boats and even large shipments of fruit. She has helped police take more than 2,000 kilos of cocaine off the streets.
Recent busts by Sombra – which is Spanish for Shadow – include uncovering over five tons of cocaine concealed in crates of bananas destined for Europe. A few months ago, the tenacious hound sniffed out 77 kilos of cocaine placed deep inside an industrial machine.
“Her sense of smell is far beyond that of other dogs,” Jose Rojas, Sombra’s 25-year-old handler, told the Associated Press.
But that talent could end up being her undoing.
The Gulf Clan – one of Colombia’s most powerful cartels, even boasting its own guerrilla army – has put out a $7,000 reward for whoever kills or captures the savvy hound.
The threat has prompted officials to move the pup from her busy post on Colombia’s Caribbean coast to the more private El Dorado International Airport in Bogota.
Investigators uncovered the threat against Sombra after reviewing an intercepted phone call, local newspapers reported.
“Sombra the German shepherd has become the terror of criminal organizations,” a recent story in Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper stated.
Her detective work is essential in Colombia, which is wrestling with soaring coco production. A recent White House report found the amount of land used to harvest the plant rose 11 percent in 2017, despite $10 billion in U.S. counter-narcotics work.
President-elect Ivan Duque is promising a tougher approach to speed up eradication of the drug, including aerial spraying and the use of drones. But even with advanced technology, experts say on-the-ground detective work such as Sombra's is critical.
Colombia's national police estimates it has lost at least 1,800 officers -- and a number of dogs -- to the war on drugs in the past two decades. Several pooches have been killed while helping officers eradicate coca crops.
Sombra's victories have turned her into somewhat of a media darling, and, as she struts around Bogota's airport with her handler, fans occasionally stop her for a selfie.
Rojas said the star-like attention hasn't gone to Sombra's head.
"Sombra, in comparison to other dogs, is much easier to work with," he said. "She understands orders from a leader, and she's more playful than the others."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.