Mattie the Black Labrador

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a group of officers that continue to put their best feet forward. Day in and day out they put their lives on the line for nothing more than a thank you and a pat on the head (and maybe a biscuit). That's right, this month we're going to look at a canine officer. One canine officer in particular: Mattie, a black Labrador Retriever with the Connecticut State Police.

Mattie was the first operational canine to come out of the Accelerant Detection Canine school run by the ATF and the CSP in 1986. While there was another yellow lab named Nellie that finished the program in 1984 as a proof of concept, Mattie was actually certified for the Connecticut State Police in September of 1986 and placed in service. So acute are these dogs' abilities that ATF research has found that canines are more sensitive to detecting accelerants in the field than instruments. In fact, Auburn University's Institute of Biological Detection has determined that canine olfactory systems can detect at a level of parts per quadrillion (1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000). Levels may be even greater than this but there are no instruments to confirm this.

Mattie's handler, Connecticut State Police Trooper Douglas Lancelot, has never ceased to be amazed at her abilities. She was able to identify 17 different accelerants in a fires aftermath. Even if the amounts were only a few drops. While waiting for fires to be extinguished, Trooper Lancelot and Mattie would often wander about the crowds at the scene. So acute was her ability that Mattie would identify the suspects within the onlookers. Mattie worked for the Connecticut State Police for 11 years and retired in 1997. She has led the way for many other Accelerant Detection Canines throughout the country.

One such team exists in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Investigator Doug Wilson and "Iris" are Nationally Certified Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Accelerant K-9 Team. In fact, Iris is also able to detect 17 individual accelerants within a fire scene. Like all dogs that enter the ATF school, Iris was originally being trained as a seeing eye dog in the Guiding Eyes program. Apparently, Iris was much happier going after squirrels than calmly leading the seeing impaired and was sent to be screened for accelerants and explosives. After completing 8 weeks of training on her own she was joined by her new partner Investigator Wilson for an additional 5 weeks (10 hours a day and 7 days a week).

The ATF class is extremely difficult and requires a perfect score from both the canine and the handler to graduate. Investigator Wilson and Iris graduated from the K-9 Academy on March 21, 2001 and became operational on April 1, 2001. Investigator Wilson and Iris became the first Accelerated and Explosives detection K-9 team in the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

I would like to thank all the canine officers and their partners, regardless of their specialty. If you work search and rescue, narcotics, explosives, electronic devices, cadavers or patrol, thank you for putting both your lives on the line. Remember, the bond between K9 handler and his partner is often greater than their two legged counterparts. After all, except in very rare occasions, you don't take your regular partner home with you every night.