Montgomery County police were forced to issue a missing report Monday for one of their rookies, a new recruit from the Netherlands who had not been seen since Saturday. His identifying marks were a tattooed ear and a black nose, and it was implied that he might sit down and take notice if somebody said "Ga zitten" and offered him a dog biscuit.
But several hours after the alert went out for the K-9 corps trainee, a mixed breed Dutch Malinois named Prins who had been in the country only a few days, he turned up -- in stir, at the county animal shelter. Purchased for more than $1,000 and imported to Montgomery with two other Dutch Malinois, the police dog trainee had somehow escaped Saturday from the kennel at his handler's home in Rockville.
Police said he was beginning to master some basic English -- "come," "sit" and "down" for starters -- but otherwise he understands only Dutch. But they say they have high hopes for him in law enforcement.
Montgomery police have begun importing the Dutch Malinois, a thin, tall, tan- and black-coated mixture of Belgian sheepdog, Belgian Malinois and German shepherd, because Germand shepherds just are not what they used to be. Police departments here and elsewhere have used donated dogs, nearly all of them German shepherds, but have found in recent years that the breed has caused problems because it has been overbred.
"People do not call and say, 'I have a perfect dog to give you,' " said Sgt. Joseph McGrogan, head of Montgomery's K-9 corps. More typically, the giveaways are dogs with adjustment problems, the kind that likes to chew on paper carriers and furniture, McGrogan said.
The supply of suitable dogs, mainly shepherds, is not keeping up with demand, he said. "It's becoming harder and harder and more costly to find suitable dogs for training," the kind that can be expected to take to the right commands. It is easier to import a proven worker like a Malinois than it is to try to train an unsuitable freebie, he said. After all, he noted, "Their major work is scent work and not bite work."
The Dutch Malinois, used extensively in the Netherlands and in Germany for tracking and crowd control, is beginning to catch on in this country as a police dog, McGrogan said. Montgomery is training Malinois for police departments elsewhere in the area, and the Secret Service has used the breed here for a number of years, the K-9 sergeant said.
"They're very easily trained, and they hold their training," said Robert Haslach, a spokesman for the embassy of the Netherlands here. "They're a very intelligent breed . . . . It's not an animal that goes crazy when it decides to attack something. It carries off the attack very properly."