By Kay S. PedrottiRanger Keith Page of Barnesville is an eight-year veteran Department of Natural Resources officer but he can’t smell trouble like his partner.His partner is Drake, a 7-year old purebred German shepherd trained in apprehension, tracking people lost or fleeing, article location, building clearing, locating wildlife and more. Page believes he is a highly talented asset to the DNR.There are only eight K9 officers (yes, they have badges) working statewide, Page says. The area covered by Page and Drake is primarily Lamar County but also includes Upson, Monroe, Butts and Jasper counties. Drake is a DNR hero for having been the first K9 to apprehend a fleeing suspect last year when a man took off running after causing a wreck in Barnesville, says Page.The work done by Page and Drake also has resulted in the finding of a gun used in an aggravated assault in Baldwin County, where the two assisted other law enforcement agencies, and tracking deer poachers to their home where pipe bombs were being made. Most of the time, Drake’s job is to help catch offenders by locating wildlife taken illegally, usually doves, quail, hawks or eagles.Drake demonstrated his talent last week by finding a ‘planted’ bit of deer meat inside a metal box attached to Page’s DNR pickup truck. The dog is about to be fitted with a bullet-proof vest, courtesy of Project Paws, an organization that helps law enforcement agencies obtain equipment related to K9 service. ’He can go in and take down an active shooter in a school, for instance,’ Page says. ‘Drake is a sweetheart till I tell him to be mean ‘“ then he’s your worst nightmare.’ Sometimes Page finds hunters’ pickup trucks and suspects they are up to no good. He and Drake wait at the truck for the people, who may have ditched their guns or contraband wildlife.’Doesn’t matter,’ Page says. ‘Drake is going to go into the woods and find the evidence anyhow.’Page and Drake’s partnership started in January of this year, when his previous handler left the DNR. Page had worked with both the handler and dog for about four years ‘before I was the lucky one who got Drake,’ says the ranger.DNR Rangers are both state game wardens and federally commissioned officers and are POST certified ‘just like any other law officer,’ Page notes. ‘We can write tickets and make arrests. Often the offenders don’t realize that’s a policeman in the pickup truck behind them.’Page’s storage shed sports a number of confiscated deer antlers that have been ‘retired’ as evidence in cases against poachers. They are now used in hunter education classes or wildlife presentations to schools, he adds.Page, 31, says he was “born and raised in Barnesville, graduated from Lamar County High in 2000.’He obviously loves his job ‘“ ‘And Drake makes it so much more interesting,’ he says.