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Riverbank's New Police Dog Eager For Patrol
Riverbank has a new K9 officer on the job.

Sam is a three-and-a-half year old, black and tan Dutch Shepherd who lives and works with his handler Deputy Marcy Matos to form a K-9 unit. They passed all the certification tests and took to the streets on patrol last week.

While most police dogs are of the German Shepherd breed, they can also be Belgian Malinois, bloodhound and even Chihuahua. Fully trained they are very valuable animals.

"We got Sam from Europe. He only answers commands made in Dutch. And he's a $10,000 dog thanks to his training," Matos said.

Police dogs serve and protect their handlers and are trained to search an area, search a building, chase down, hold and even bite a suspect on command, follow a scent of blood or even detect and search out illicit drugs or weapons by the smell of gunpowder.

Dogs and their handlers live and work together so the dog becomes used to his master, trusts him or her implicitly and can even anticipate commands in confusing circumstances.

"He always comes up to me on my left-hand side for example," Matos noted, after ordering Sam to sit, then walked away and ordered him to come.

While Sam lives outside in his yard kennel during the day, he is allowed into the house at night and sleeps on the floor on the left-hand side of her bed.

Interviewed at Jacob Myers Park shortly before she began work on a recent day, Matos was a formidable figure in full patrol gear including bulletproof vest, gun, radio, extra ammunition, Taser, pepper spray and more.

Sam simply had his collar and leash but was very happy to be introduced to some children with their father visiting the park, cheerfully shaking hands and paws and consenting to stroking and petting. Police dogs, besides police horses, can be excellent public relations tools.

"He's a very gentle and good natured animal," Matos noted, but can change when ordered to chase down and hold a suspect who attempts to escape.

As Matos, the dog and an officer wearing a padded sleeve demonstrated at Castleberg Park a few weeks ago, Sam will chase, hold by the arm and even bite when ordered.

"But he differentiates between work and play," she said. "If he sees me relaxed and calm, he will be the same."

Officers generally issue a verbal warning of the consequences if they think a suspect is about to flee.

Sam is also good companion in a fight, Matos noted. While she might leave him locked in her SUV patrol unit to approach a quarrel on the street, a push on a button in her equipment will open the vehicle door and bring Sam to her side at the rush.

While he tips the scales at only 63 pounds, that's all muscle and good health and its takes strength to control him.

"He's a tracker. I can put a harness on him and take him to a scent. He will go nose to the ground, tail up, ears up and pulling hard," she said.

Sam and Matos will continue to train every Wednesday at the Sheriff's Department headquarters in Modesto. But most of their future training will come from day to day activity while they are on patrol.

Given good health and no serious injuries, Sam should be in active police work for six to seven years.