Paw Patrol

Words by Johanna Harlow

Photos by Gino de Grandis

Words by Johanna Harlow

Wrongdoers beware: those who underestimate K9 Elvis will soon be singing “Jailhouse Rock.” When this Belgian Malinois and his handler Officer Jason Chice are on the scene, it’s only a matter of time before they track down their quarry.

“We’ve been partners since 2020,” says Jason of the San Mateo Police Department K9 Unit. Back in elementary school, Jason recalls a friend’s father showing up with his canine partner for a class demonstration. The memory stuck with him. “The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do working for a police department was be a K9 officer,” shares Jason, who previously worked as an ambulance driver.

As a dual-purpose patrol dog, Elvis’ skillful performance results from hundreds of hours of training with his handler. “Criminal apprehension is his primary focus,” Jason explains. This includes practice with decoys: courageous men and women clad in protective bite suits willing to face the sharp end of a dog. Dual-purpose K9s don’t just protect police officers. They learn to track people. Some can find guns, while others, like Elvis, sniff out drugs.

But before any of this, Elvis hung out at home with Jason and his family, which includes six other pet dogs. “It’s building that bond like you would with a regular dog,” Jason says of this foundational training. “They get to know who feeds them. They get to know who’s taking care of them… It’s them knowing that, ‘Hey, I can rely on you. You’re part of my pack now.’” He adds, “I don’t think a lot of people know that. They’re part of our family. They’re part of our lives. He is truly a partner.”

So what does a typical day on the job currently look like for these two? “I don’t know if there’s anything ‘typical’ at work,” laughs Jason. But the day always starts with getting into uniform, as both handler and dog suit up in bulletproof vests. Jason and Elvis then head out to keep vigil over the east side of San Mateo. “We’re just on regular patrol like any other officer. The only difference for us is when there are alarm calls.” Whether it’s a burglary or an assault in progress, a stolen vehicle or officers in an altercation, Jason and Elvis are dispatched to the scene.

“There are days where we are going from one end of the city to the other all day long,” Jason says, his upbeat attitude revealing no signs of fatigue. “On an ‘easier day,’ we’ll just patrol our city.” That includes keeping a presence at Bridgepointe Shopping Center: “That way, we deter any thefts from there.”

What truly makes Elvis an asset to the police is his powerful nose. Here’s how Jason describes it: “When grandma’s cooking an apple pie, you smell the apple pie. That’s all you smell. When a dog walks into the room, they smell everything separately. They have 300 million olfactory receptors. They piece everything out: the sugar, everything that’s gone into the crust, the apples, the cinnamon. And they do that in a split second.”

Except instead of dessert, they’re sniffing out drugs and guns. Some K9s are trained to detect gunpowder and gunshot residue, while drug dogs like Elvis can sniff out specific chemicals found in the big four: methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.

Jason holds up a plastic bone infused with a component of an illegal substance. He attaches it to the underside of the charred and smoky precinct barbecue, an odiferous object for a sensitive pooch. Yet, when Elvis comes on the scene, it takes him less than a minute to beeline for the bone.

Once, on a tracking assignment, Elvis and Jason were called in to locate suspects who’d abandoned their car, split up and fled on foot, with officers muddling the scent. The outcome? “He found all three,” Jason reports.
Jason also oversees the San Mateo K9 unit’s nonprofit, which helps fund the purchase of new dogs, medical bills and care for retired K9s. What keeps the officer’s eye on the ball, or rather the job? “It sounds cliché, but one reason that I got into this line of work is to go out there and help people and make a difference.”

As for Elvis? It’s all a big game. When he stays on task, he’s rewarded with his favorite ball and plenty of treats. “Whether they’re using their nose, whether they’re apprehending someone, it’s all fun for them,” Jason notes with an affectionate scratch behind his Malinois’ ear. “When they’re working, it’s playtime.”


Like many Peninsula police departments, San Mateo partners with Redwood City’s Trident K9 Consulting, which handles K9 selections, mostly through breeders in Europe, as well as the training of dogs and their handlers. Temperament-wise, “They kind of match what we look for in an officer,” notes Jason. As for breeds? Typically, Jason sees Belgian Malinois and German shepherd recruits. However, other pups do make the cut. “I’ve been to places and seen a standard poodle used as a dual-purpose K9… I’ve seen pit bulls, I’ve seen Dobermanns.”

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