Brutus, the Czech Shepherd police dog who served Mammoth Lakes with distinction for five years, is dead, the police department announced in a news release earlier this week.
Brutus was put down on Jan. 16 at the age of 11 due to chronic back problems, according to MLPD Chief Dan Watson.
No one was more affected by Brutus’ death than his handler/partner Officer Dan Casabian, the department’s K-9 officer during the time Brutus served.
Brutus also was the family dog for Casabian and his children, now aged 12, 8, and 7.
“Many times my life depended on him,” Casabian said. “You build a partnership with a dog. I spent more time with him, 24 hours a day, than anyone else.”
In having to put down Brutus, Casabian said, “It was very emotional—probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
Brutus, Casabian said, had an innate ability to act on cue, turning from a gentle, family dog into police mode.
“I’d get dressed in the morning and reach into the safe for my gun, then slip the gun into the holster, and when I locked the gun into the holster, it made a clicking noise. That’s when Brutus was at the door, ready for work.”
Brutus was involved in several high-profile cases in the time he served, between 2004-09.
Among them was an attempted murder case.
That incident involved a patron at one of the bars in the Village. As the patrol exited onto the street, an attacker slashed the patron’s throat with a box-cutter blade, and then took off.
When Casabian and Brutus arrived, Brutus flew into action, tracking the suspect for more than a mile before Casabian was able to apprehend him.
Brutus also was a key officer in the recovery of evidence in a number of other cases, including drug cases.
Brutus was a Czech Shepherd born in Czech Republic in March 2002. Following a fundraising effort that raised over $20,000 in 2004, Brutus was purchased from Alderhorst International in Riverside after being hand-selected for Mammoth Lakes by Alderhorst owner/hand Dave Reaver.
The MLPD in its announcement at the time said the police were looking for a well-mannered and well-tempered police dog, trained in both patrol/apprehension and narcotics detection.
Reaver recommended Brutus because he believed he would be the best fit for Mammoth Lakes.
Alderhorst also was the training center for Tara, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois that was trained in narcotics detection. Tara joined the Mono County Sheriff’s Department last December.
A casual observer would hardly think of Brutus as vicious or mean, Casabian said.
“He was an everyday dog at home,” he said, “and the kids loved him. He’d play with them; let them ride around on his back. He was a great dog, a great family dog.”
Casabian said telling his children about Brutus’ death was very difficult.
“He was the only dog they ever knew,” Casabian said.
But Brutus also was a terrific officer in the field, he said.
“He was part of the department. He was an officer. He was my partner, best friend, and family member.”