Humane societies and rescue agencies are responsible for millions of pet adoptions every year.
Typically those animals go to their forever homes to relax and live out their best days, but in some cases, they go to work and that’s exactly what four rescue dogs, turned K-9s are doing in Erie County.
“Oh, that’s a good Finn! Good boy!” said the handler of Finn, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, who once was a stray, wandering the streets of Ontario, Canada.
“Once he hears the car start up and see the uniform go on, it’s ready for work. He jumps right in the car and he’s ready,” said Andrew Addesa, Finn’s handler.
These days Finn is a dual purpose K-9.
He’s trained to track a scent and detect narcotics.
“I’m just the guy at the end of the leash. He knows what to do. I just follow behind him and it’s pretty cool to watch,” said Officer Addesa.
Finn is one of four dogs, rescued, and brought to Erie County to train to be a police dog.
“For them working is a godsend,” said Celine Loguasto.
Loguasto is a dog trainer and behavioral assessor from Canada, who heard Erie County was in search of police dogs.
“I was just like hey, I can supply the dual purpose dogs — Malinois and German shepherds — but when it comes to the drug dogs why don’t we save lives and get them from the pound,” said Loguasto.
It’s Celine’s job to take a close look at these animals and determine which ones have the drive to do the job.
“They’re friendly, they’re sane, they’re clear-headed and above and beyond they just have this insane ball drive, so you can take out a ball anywhere and they just want to play, they want to look for it, hunt for it, they just have this drive,” said Loguasto.
Finn, a German Shepherd; Link, a Rottweiler Mix; Obee, an American Bulldog Mix; and Moose, a chocolate lab, all showed the skills needed to become a police dog.
Finn and Link both came from the Lincoln County Humane Society in St. Catherines, Ontario.
Obee also came from Canada, while Moose came from a shelter in Illinois.
Three of them faced the possibility of euthanasia because nobody wanted them.
The day we met them, it was obvious just how obsessed these dogs are with their jobs.
They work at the Erie County Holding Center in Buffalo and the correctional facility in Alden.
They’re responsible for searching the inmates and visitors as well as the cells, housing units and incoming mail for marijuana, crack, cocaine, meth, and heroin.
They’re trained to get the ball as a reward if they’re able to detect drugs.
“When he comes into odor it’s like something in him just says ‘stop and drop’. I give him a command ‘find the dope!’ and boom he’s in search mode,” said K-9 Deputy Gerald Keicher, when talking about his K-9 Link.
It only took Officer Keicher five weeks for Link to get New York State Certified in narcotics detection.
According to the officer, that’s a relatively fast amount of time.
These days, Link proudly wears his badge to work.
“He’s one of us. We have our badge, he gets his so he gets to walk down the street with pride just like we do,” said Officer Keicher.
Their jobs may give them a sense of excitement and pride, but the companionship and love between officer and K-9 was one they didn’t have before they were rescued.
The officers agree they can’t tell the difference between a dog that was bred for police work and the four-legged partners they have today.
“He’s got a good nose for it. He’s got great drive for it. He’s got the perfect temperament for it… I hope he lasts forever doing this,” said K-9 Deputy Sheriff, Brian Thompson, when talking about his K-9, Obee.
Erie County leaders hope other agencies follow in their footsteps, giving a shelter dog purpose and protecting the public.