Author’s note: I like dogs but not when they’re trained to be grasses. They’ll ruin a man’s life, send him into a locked concrete box, and for what? A treat? A rubber ball? Man’s best friend? Not if you’re a drug user. I started writing short stories about my encounters with sniffer dogs, here are two of them…
Act 1: Field Day Festival
“KEEP YOUR HANDS CLASPED TOGETHER!!! Do not put them in your pockets. Do not smoke in my queue. Do not use your phone in my queue,” roared a security guard with a mohawk and a penchant for shit tattoos. His face was ballooned out like a blown-up rubber glove, a feature that marked him out as a chronic steroid user. He was in his element barging around professionally intimidating people like a schoolyard bully, just one with a fancy jacket and a £15-an-hour wage.
I was standing in Guantanamo Bay. Sorry, no [checks notes], I was detained in a small fenced-off section next to the entrance of Field Day festival in London. A festival prison if you will. A sniffer dog had allegedly indicated that I had illegal substances on my person so I was marched here by militant members of staff, presumably lost on their way to HMP Belmarsh. “You will be arrested and you will be prosecuted,” I was told when I declined to hand over illegal drugs. So I was placed in a production line of nervous-looking sesh heads. The police hovered around the periphery of the scene, periodically glancing over at the sad people in the sad queue. Things were getting tense.
This is all just theatrics designed to make terrified 18-year-olds hand over their pills and powders. In reality, it’s best to wait it out, categorically deny any wrongdoing and see how it plays out. A lot of these security guards are great at swaggering around but when it comes to stopping drugs they couldn’t catch chlamydia in student halls, let alone someone with drugs who is actively trying to evade them.
I waited in the pen of intimidation, with my hands clasped together in the traditional praying position. The guy in front of me told me he works for The Telegraph newspaper. “Have you got anything on you? I have some MDMA in my sock,” he quickly whispered with a panicked expression etched deep into his face.
“He’s an innocent man,” my friend, who had been up all night partying and looked more than a bit dishevelled, proclaimed to nobody in particular from the other side of the fence. “GET AWAY FROM THE FENCE,” the security guard hissed at him like a starving feral dog. He scuttled back…
A guard trooped up and down the outside of the fence like he was responsible for commanding a prisoner-of-war camp. At the exact right moment, the guy from The Telegraph quickly took a chance, crouched down, took a baggie out of his sock and flung the contraband over the fence. Astonishingly the security and police completely missed it. I looked away when I saw my friend swoop down like an eagle, grab the baggie and walk off. The whole operation was over in 30 seconds flat.
“There were at least four or five yellow jackets pacing up and down,” my friend recalls. “But I remember my days playing Metal Gear Solid. I followed their movement and they walked away from the landing spot, I pretended to tie my laces, scooped it up and got off.”
Around 30 minutes went by and I was led into a large tent with bits sectioned off inside, for a search. “Right, where do you want me?” a braggadocious woman with long blonde hair asked, strutting through the main entrance and immediately whipping her top off. “Noooo!” a chorus of security guards sang in unison. She was ushered into one of the rooms. If that was a distraction tactic, I thought to myself, it was pure genius.
No drugs were found (unlucky – better luck next time). They missed their bust and The Telegraph guy was reunited with his property on the other side of the fence. The only thing missing from the whole experience was a hood over my head, an orange jumpsuit and a good old-fashioned waterboarding. How bizarre, but then again things do get bizarre when you have a situation in society where a plant is illegal and dogs are forced to stop people moving said plant from one side of a field to another.
Act 2: Printworks & Leyton Orient Football Club
Similar to Field Day, at Printworks a dog allegedly indicated that I possessed drugs. It was, once again, time for us to dance. A short, stumpy security guard, I’d guess in his 50s, with a face that looked like it had been repeatedly fed through a meat grinder, started having a go at me.
“The dog doesn’t lie,” he snarled. I pointed out that there have been studies into the efficacy of sniffer dogs at music events and they all concluded that they are ineffective. Researchers found that in 75 percent of cases, the dog indicates the presence of drugs that are never found and they make drugs more dangerous when the intimidation works and people take all their drugs in the queue to avoid getting nicked.
In 2017, 17-year-old Emily Lyon necked her MDMA in the queue to get into Red Bull Culture Clash when she saw the sniffer dogs. She died. An inquest heard that she took the fatal dose “because she was concerned sniffer dogs would detect the narcotics”. Another win for the War On Drugs and for the likes of this security guard another loss for humanity. There are other examples of this happening too.
In 2017, 17-year-old Emily Lyon necked her MDMA in the queue to get into Red Bull Culture Clash when she saw the sniffer dogs. She died. An inquest heard that she took the fatal dose “because she was concerned sniffer dogs would detect the narcotics”
So, once again branded a criminal, I was unceremoniously led to a room where the security wanted my ID and to film me being searched. But they didn’t find anything. Exactly a week later, I was quietly standing in the queue to enter Leyton Orient Football Club when a dog came over. I looked up and my jaw nearly hit the floor: it was the same man with the same dog. Does he get paid to follow me around east London? Imagine getting on the career ladder as a professional grass? What do you do for a job mate? I’m a professional dickhead snitch.
I had used some, perfectly legally prescribed, cannabis on the way to the match but had no medicine on me. I said this. “I don’t give a fuck mate, you came to a football match stinking of weed,” he spat back, speckles of saliva flying in my direction.
There was a silence.
“What’s your point? It’s not illegal to smell like weed, is it?” I said, attempting to inject some logic into the senseless situation. Alas, that simply served to infuriate him further. His face morphed into a mask of rage. It was like putting 50p in a hyperactive jukebox.
The guy oozed anger, and I know why: He was intoxicated on a drug much stronger than weed – the narcotic of power. He moved closer, squaring up to me, presumably in an attempt to intimidate. And it should have worked – this guy had obviously been in some scrapes in his life, it looked like someone had taken an electric sander to his face – but it was tricky because he was really short.
With the conversation going nowhere, angry dog man stomped off returning with the police moments later. “Have you got anything on you that you shouldn’t have?” the arriving officer asked. I categorically denied any wrongdoing. “Have you got anything on you that you shouldn’t have?” I asked him. We both laughed.
At that moment a man who was so drunk he looked like he’d consumed enough booze to get an entire football team pissed for a week, trundled past. He was drinking a clear liquid from a disposable, half-crushed, plastic cup. He flopped onto the floor, his limbs failing and folding in on themselves like the bellow of an accordion. Despite looking so fucked that I wouldn’t be surprised if his brain started dribbling out of his ears at any minute, he was hoisted up by the security staff and ushered straight in. So, if you smell like medical cannabis you are treated like you breached the Geneva Convention but if you’re smashed on alcohol and look like you’re about to shred someone’s face with a glass bottle, you’re welcomed with open arms. What a ludicrous farce. This is indicative of how people using cannabis-based medicine are treated in England every single day.
After all this fuss, I emptied my pockets for the police officer for the big reveal: keys, wallet, a tissue and an empty packet of Skittles. That was it. Well done everybody. Have a pat on the back.
The only thing that drug sniffer dogs do is make drugs more dangerous. After all, you can harass someone with a dog and search their pockets again and again until everyone gets so bored that they want to scrape their eyeballs out with rusty spoons, but that doesn’t change the fact that, as they can’t strip search you, it’s very very easy to smuggle any substance (in almost any volume) into any event in the UK. If we are really fighting a war, a ‘war on drugs’, this is what winning looks like.