Rio Rancho Police K9 Unit Sgt. David Portis directs his bomb dog, Abraham, to search for explosive material in a new scent-training board on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Cleveland High School student Mason Naus, a son of another RRPD sergeant, led creation of the board for his Eagle Scout project.
(Argen Marie Duncan/Observer)

Rio Rancho Police K9 Unit members have a new tool to sharpen their dogs’ sniffing skills, thanks to a local teenager’s Eagle Scout project.

Cleveland High School senior and Boy Scout troops 1 and 459 member Mason Naus, son of RRPD Sgt. Michael Naus, presented the scent-training board he designed to the department Wednesday evening. The board is made of plywood in a steel frame and has two sections, each containing five attachments for interchangeable cylinders that can hold samples of drugs or explosive materials for dogs to find.

Sgt. Naus, who’s worked at RRPD for 26 years, said if the department ever expands to include cadaver dogs, it could get more cylinders and use the board for that training, too.

The board folds up and bolts together for easier transportation.

K9 Unit Sgt. David Portis said the board would be “super beneficial” in focusing the canines on specific spaces and helping new dogs improve and experienced dogs review basics. He said the unit depends on outside funding for equipment and couldn’t have gotten a scent board without the donation.

“So the fact we’ve been gifted this is really appreciated,” he continued.

Mason Naus, who’s been a scout for about a dozen years, said he decided on the scent board as his Eagle Scout project because his family just adopted a dog, he wanted to keep the service local and his father works with the police department and knows the dog handlers.

“I talked to the (K9) officers about it, and they loved it,” he said.

Sgt. Naus said he and Mason worked hand-in-hand and wanted to do something different than other Eagle Scout projects.
“We wanted something that would last and be a tangible thing,” Sgt. Naus said.

He said law enforcement canine teams around the Rio Rancho area train together, so the board will benefit multiple agencies and their communities.

The younger Naus came up with the idea for the scent-training board after research, and said the design took a couple of days.

“I had to keep going over new ideas and fixing the things I had thought might not work until I found what I thought was the perfect design,” he said.

Portis said he helped the scout focus on what the dog handlers needed.

“It came out well past my expectations,” he said.

Mason Naus then wrote a proposal to the Rio Rancho Lowe’s store to see if the company would donate any supplies. The store provided all the materials except the plywood and the steel frames, “which was a huge amount of stuff,” he said.

Sgt. Naus’s father, who owns Naus Agency metal fabrication company in Albuquerque, gave his grandson the steel for the frame, as well as the previous opportunity to learn the welding skills Mason used to put it together.

Mason Naus said it took a group of seven scouts and three parents about seven hours to assemble the training board.

Since he presented it Wednesday, he only needs to finalize paperwork and wait for the scout council to move on the item to officially receive his Eagle Scout award.

Prospective Eagle Scout Mason Naus explains the dog scent-training board he designed for his Eagle Scout project to a group of Rio Rancho Police officers on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. He donated the board to the RRPD K9 Unit.
(Argen Marie Duncan/Observer)

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