The theme of the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade is “Dreams Come True,’’ and one float exemplifies the fulfillment of a dream of Kristi Schiller, a Houston woman who wants to aid K9 law-enforcement officers around the country by providing much-needed trained dogs to protect and serve by their sides.
Just over two years ago philanthropist Schiller heard a news report that Harris County Deputy Constable Ted Dahlin had lost his dog Blek in the line of duty, while pursuing burglary suspects. Schiller hoped to donate funds to replace the dog, but then learned of a shortage of trained dogs at police departments across the country, so she responded by founding the charity organization K9s4COPs.
I visited with Schiller at Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale, Calif., as workers scrambled to assemble the K9s4COPs float before next Wednesday’s 2014 Rose Parade in nearby Pasadena. She told me why this cause has become such an important mission for her.
“The parade will be seen by 1 million people along the route, plus another 100 million watching on TV, and our hope is to raise awareness of what K9 officers go through, how valuable they are,’’ Schiller says. “Having a trained dog at an officer’s side makes so many situations so much safer. If an officer has to enter a warehouse in pursuit of a suspect the dog has such superior senses that he can signal an alert long before any human could know there was a danger.’’
Schiller says the dogs have had a large impact in her Houston area community, where K9s4COPs has donated 16 of Harris County’s 23 K9s.
When Deputy Ted Dahlin lost his police K9 in the line of duty Kristi Schiller, right, responded by forming the charity fundraising group K9s4COPs, which has now donated more than 60 dogs to police departments across the nation.
“Before we got these dogs we had only 8 dogs to patrol the Houston area, which has become a hub of drug activity and transport nationwide,’’ says Sgt. Mike Thomas, who will ride atop the K9s4COPs float with his donated police dog Tamra. “With so few dogs, we were stretched too thin. It was like trying to spread a teaspoon of peanut butter across a slice of bread.’’
“In the past year just one of these dogs confiscated $6 million worth of drugs, and it cost us $10,000 to donate that trained dog,’’ Schiller says. “You do the math. Then multiply that by 16, the number of dogs we have donated in the Houston area alone, and you can imagine what a major impact that is having, and trained dogs are needed across the United States, and in countries around the world, from detecting explosives to protecting our children in schools.’’
In just over two years the foundation has donated more than 65 K9s to 23 police agencies in nine states. The dogs are specifically trained to assist law enforcement in their work and cost $10,000 to $15,000, which the foundation raises through donations.
K9s4COPs dedicates its inaugural Rose Parade float to the heroic law enforcement K9 Units across America and to the men and women who serve and protect our community. Sitting atop a bed of roses is a larger-than-life K9 that resembles the organization’s mascot a King Shepherd, Johnny Cash. Founder Kristi Schiller, her husband John and daughter Sinclair will be joined by selected officers and deputies with their K9s by their side, representing K9s that have been donated by the organization.
Police dogs are in widespread use a variety of duties, including drug, explosives, and weapon detection and missing person searches. In many jurisdictions police dogs are full-fledged police officers, often with their own badges.
“In our part of the country many officers ride alone, rather than with a partner, so having a K9 partner gives a police officer an extra measure of security,’’ says Deputy Constable Ted Dahlin. “An officer’s family knows he or she has a better chance of coming home safely with that dog by his side.’’
To learn more about the mission of K9s4COPs and how you can help today, or apply for a grant or donated police K9, click here.