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Chihuahua police dog in a grassy field Weighing six pounds, Momo is the smallest member of Japan's police force. (Kyodo / Reuters)

Japan's Newest Police Dog

This rescue dog could fit in your hand, but she’s no joke

By Zach Jones | November 28 , 2010
<br />Momo works on the rescue beat with cops in Nara, Japan.<br /><br />(Jim McMahon)

Momo works on the rescue beat with cops in Nara, Japan.

(Jim McMahon)

Momo is one of the newest dogs on the police force in Nara, Japan, and she may be the world's first Chihuahua to join police ranks. Her name means "Peach" in Japanese.

Last week, Momo graduated from Nara's search-and-rescue training program. Most rescue dogs are big—often golden retrievers or German shepherds. But this 7-year-old Chihuahua weighs only six pounds. Why would police choose such a tiny dog for such a big job?

"There are situations when small dogs are useful," says Momo's owner, Keiko Matsuyoshi.

Police agree. They think Momo's size will work to her advantage. Rescue officers hope she will be able to squeeze through wreckage to find injured people trapped after natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

So far, Momo has proved her skills. Only half of her class passed the final exam needed to graduate from the police academy's training program. During her test, Momo took only five minutes to sniff out a person's hiding place after smelling his hat.

"Any breed of dog can be entered to become a police dog in the search-and-rescue division," says one Nara police officer. But even police were surprised to have a Chihuahua join the force. "It's quite unusual," the officer added.

Momo is due to report for duty in 2011. For now, she's relaxing at home. After she passed police exams, her owner cooked them both chicken stew for dinner—it's Momo's favorite dish.

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