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The Beat Goes On for an Injured Officer and His New K-9 Partner

March 06, 2004|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

You might say they were both looking for a fresh start.

Johnny Quijas, a Santa Ana police officer, was returning to duty after three months in rehab, recovering after being mauled by his former canine partner, Ramble.

Ygor, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, was bouncing back from tough luck himself. While working as a police dog last year for another department, he ran into a branch. It cost him his left eye.

On Friday, Quijas and Ygor came off the disabled list as partners. The veteran officer, who has handled law enforcement dogs for seven years, and the 70-pound brown-and-black dog became the sixth K-9 team employed by the Santa Ana Police Department. Ygor is believed to be the only one-eyed police dog in the county.

"We both have something in common," Quijas said. "We both got hurt on the job and now we're partners."

Quijas was mauled by his former partner, Ramble, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois that attacked him a week after completing training. Quijas suffered a broken arm and deep cuts and bruises. Ramble was quickly retired.

Quijas said the incident has not deterred him from working with Ygor, a calmer dog than Ramble. They recently completed a five-week training program.

"Don't be fooled by his disability. You can't tell the difference," said Quijas, 41. "He works like a two-eyed dog."

After his injury, Ygor spent two months recuperating at a kennel. Other police agencies passed him up, apparently unwilling to take a chance on a one-eyed dog.

"They were worried: What if something happens with his other eye?" Quijas said. "We said, 'Hey, we don't discriminate.' "

Like other canine recruits, Ygor was tested to gauge his obedience, sociability and -- of course -- ability to do his job.

"He tested far beyond what the other dogs can do, so we overlooked his [having only] one eye," Quijas said.

"The guys in the Police Department didn't believe me when I told them Ygor had only one eye. They all went out to my car to take a look."

In his first week, Ygor, who responds to commands in Dutch and barks only when he finds a suspect, has already helped capture one hiding in a stolen car and another in an apartment complex.

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