FREEPORT – Cassie might seem like most other pets when Matthew Moorhouse and his family are going about their domestic routine.
But that all changes once Moorhouse goes into his bedroom, where he keeps his police uniform, and gets ready to take his shower. Cassie is all business after that.
“As soon as I even enter that room, she gets all wound up and she’s just ready to go,” Moorhouse said last week, following his overnight shift with the Freeport Police Department. “As soon as I put on my uniform and go through my routine before work, she knows it’s work time. When I go to work, she’s locked in on me 100 percent of the time. When I take off the uniform, she relaxes. She’s extremely intelligent.”
Cassie is a 19-month-old Belgian Malinois. Moorhouse, a third-year officer with the Freeport Police Department, has trained her, and had her in his cruiser and in his home since June. The U.S. Police Canine Association, Region 9, certified Cassie as a patrol dog on Nov. 18, with a narcotics certification possibly to follow.
Police Chief Gerry Schofield said that the Town Council and Town Manager Peter Joseph both supported bringing Cassie into the police force as the town’s first canine search dog. Donations funded her acquisition and training, he said.
“Now she is ready for ‘paws on the ground,’” said Lt. Susan Nourse. “Officer Moorhouse and Cassie will be primarily working the night shift. There will be opportunities for them to meet with the public at special events and for K-9 demonstrations as time allows.”
Schofield likes the looks of the new team.
“She’s a little spitfire,” Schofield said. “She really excelled in her training. Between the training and Matt working with her on his own time, it’s worked out great. She comes to work with Matt. She rides in the patrol car. She goes to calls. He’s in charge of her. We even tell Matt that if we’re doing something wrong with her, he’s got to tell us.”
Prior to Cassie’s certification, Schofield said, Moorhouse might have used her to help track down a lost person.
“Building searches will be the big one,” the chief said. “We have some large buildings in town. The dog can find or detect people in hidden places.”
Nourse and Moorhouse were present during a Nov. 26 Town Council meeting, during which the council presented them with a police badge for Cassie’s collar.
Schofield said that Freeport police have been considering a search canine for years. Some neighboring police departments no longer have search dogs, he said.
“Matt really led the charge,” Schofield said. “He has interest in the animal itself. It’s a lot of work, and Matt understood the work it entails. He spent his own time working with her. He approached me about it, and I asked him about his long-term goals. He said he wanted to stay here.”
Cassie shares a home with Moorhouse, his girlfriend, a 4-year-old boxer and a cat. The two dogs, Moorhouse said, are “best friends.”
Moorhouse concurs with Schofield that building searches – in a town with so many large commercial buildings – will be one of the dog’s prime duties.
“It’s getting worse out there, with building searches, tracking and article recovery,” he said.
Police must clear and secure every building where there has been an alarm, Moorhouse said.
“There are a lot of large building searches,” he said. “Doors are left open, whether by mistake or due to burglaries. We get two-to-seven alarm calls a day. Clearing a large building with two officers can take up to two hours. She goes right to the human odor. Dogs don’t have to search every room. We’re able to clear the building twice as fast. Having a canine is just a great benefit.”
Moorhouse also will use Cassie to track children, or perhaps older people with dementia, who are lost. The dog also can track human criminal activity, he said.
“Their motivation is work,” he said.
Moorhouse said that a Belgian Malinois is a healthier breed than German shepherds, who have been bred for so many years. Their bodies don’t break down as quickly, he said. Still, Moorhouse expects no more than eight years of service from Cassie. Once the dog is retired from police duty, he will become Moorhouse’s full-time pet.
Matt Moorhouse, a patrol officer with the Freeport Police Department, kneels in front of his cruiser with Cassie. The team of Moorhouse and Cassie passed their patrol certification trials last month.Cassie is a 19-month-old Belgian Malinois.