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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 26, 2002 - Issue 54


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Dog to Put Her Nose to Job on Reservation

by Darrell R. Santschi The Press-Enterprise-January 16, 2002
credits: Peter Phun/The Press-Enterprise
Jason Mathiot, a dog handler with the San Manuel Department of Public Safety, talks about Megi, a German shepherd who will be used to sniff out explosives.
Megi and Jason MathiotSAN MANUEL RESERVATION - Megi put on the dog Tuesday for members of the San Manuel Indian band.

The 2-year-old Czechoslovakian-born German shepherd turned some heads as she sniffed out gunpowder, plastic explosives, even a gun, hidden as a test in Tribal Unity Park on this Indian reservation north of Highland.

Her job will be to nose around the tribe's casino in search of explosives and to provide bomb-sniffing support for local law enforcement agencies that request her services.

"People have asked why we invested in an explosive-detecting dog," San Manuel Director of Public Safety Klay Peterson told about a dozen tribal members, security officers and reporters at the demonstration. "San Manuel has always prided itself in being a pro-active community."

What with concern about terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, Indian leaders looked for additional protection.

Megi is "a new and exciting venture for the reservation," Peterson said.

The dog and her handler, tribal Public Safety Officer Jason Mathiot, underwent seven weeks of training at Alderhost Kennels in Riverside, where Megi learned 10 words of English and Mathiot learned 25 words of Czech.

"I've never handled a police dog before," Mathiot said, adding that his father, Michael Mathiot, had trained police dogs and hunting dogs for 20 years until 1995, when he died of a heart attack.

Jason Mathiot was dealing with the death of his last dog, a Labrador retriever named Trouble, when he was informed this past fall that he would be handling Megi.

"Trouble died of kidney failure," he said. "Toxins loaded up in her system and I had to put her down. What made it the hardest was that when my father died, they sent her to me because they knew I had been around my dad and he worked with dogs.

"It was like going through my father's death all over again."

Megi has helped to fill the void, he said, by moving in with the family and frolicking with his two children, aged 6 and 7.

"They like her," he said. "At first I was concerned about having Megi in the house. I didn't know how she would react to the kids. It only took a couple of days before she was right at home."

"This is not a situation where the tail wags the dog," he told the audience before the bomb-sniffing demonstration. "She had to know who's the dad."

He got acquainted with the shepherd by sitting on her doghouse at the kennel, he said, and reading her stories. "She acted like she understood the stories."

It all worked out, he said, in part because Megi is a "real mellow and friendly" dog. "She loves attention."

They play a lot at home, Mathiot said, but never with the baton-sized burlap wrap she loves to play tug-of-war and fetch with. That is strictly for business, he said, as a reward when she sniffs out explosives, sits at attention and gives him that knowing look.

They ride from the Mathiot home in San Bernardino to the reservation in a car specially equipped for Megi, with a water dish and air-circulating fans in her compartment -- and a sensor that detects when the temperature reaches 90 degrees.

When that happens, he said, the car's siren is triggered and the windows open automatically.

It doesn't figure to happen often. Just during the dog days of summer.

Map of San Manuel Reservation

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