- Canine officer with Alaska State Troopers fitted with gold teeth 09/11/01

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Canine officer with Alaska State Troopers fitted with gold teeth FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska State Troopers have fitted one of their police dogs with false teeth.

Nissan, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois, received four gold-alloy crowns after troopers decided the dog was too valuable and young to retire early because of a few chipped, infected and worn teeth.

The dog's partner, Trooper Larry Erickson, said he noticed a problem about a month ago. The dog's teeth were causing discomfort and perhaps pain when it had to detain someone with its jaws.

''He wasn't comfortable biting hard and holding hard,'' said veterinarian Jean Battig. ''He would bite and readjust and readjust and readjust.''

Nissan was referred to Battig because she's put gold crowns on other animals. The doctor removed a dead incisor, did a root canal on the infected canine tooth, then put crowns on the four worn teeth.

Battig likened Nissan's ordeal to a police officer armed with a gun that doesn't work properly.

''For a canine cop, his teeth are his weapon,'' she said. ''If he's not working, as a partner he's a detriment. He can't do his job.''

Erickson, who has worked with Nissan for the past year, said the dog's problem stems from its high activity drive.

''He's constantly in motion, in action and chewing on things, which makes him an excellent drug dog,'' the trooper said.

When Nissan sniffs out the drugs he responds by a certain type of body language. His reward is a toy that causes the small dog to go ''ape crazy,'' Erickson said.

Nissan treasures his chew toys and has been known to fall asleep with a chew toy in his mouth.

The constant chewing has been hard on his teeth.

But what was most detrimental to Nissan's fangs was eating rocks when he was younger. This chipped two of his teeth, which became infected after the nerves were exposed.

Nissan also is trained as a patrol dog and uses his jaws to detain suspects until Erickson can arrest them.

Repairing the animal's teeth took three visits in less than a week and cost roughly $2,500. The job was completed Saturday.

Nissan has been on light duty for the past week because he can't use his mouth to detain people. Instead, he has been used strictly for drug searches.

But starting Tuesday, he'll be back to tracking people. This will be the real test of the new teeth.

''If he goes out biting hard and holding hard, he's comfortable with his new teeth,'' Battig said.

All Contents ?Copyright 2001, The Peninsula Clarion and Morris Digital Works.

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