Project aims to help retired K-9s
Project K-9 Hero provides up to $3,000 per year for medical needs, ships food to the handler and pays up to $500 for cremation or burial services
The Dominion Post
KINGWOOD, W.Va. — Flash doesn’t know she’s a law enforcement hero, or that she’s the title character in a children’s book.
She just knows that she’s loved and cared for in her retirement.
But not all police K-9 and military dogs are as fortunate to have the support she does.
“What happens when police or military working dogs retire is they have no after-care funding in retirement,” Amanda Bolyard said. “The handler might not keep their dog if they have a new partner that their old partner doesn’t get along with, but most of the time they like to keep their dogs.”
So a little over a year ago, Jason Johnson started the nonprofit Project K-9 Hero to help. Johnson serves as Field Canine coordinator for the U.S. government. Before that, he trained and certified K-9 students in federal agencies and many state and local governments.
His service includes time in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a police officer and a U.S. Army military policeman.
Bolyard, a Preston County native, is his girlfriend.
Flash’s path to public service began in Everett, Wash., where she was found on the streets and placed in an animal shelter. There she was scheduled to be euthanized, “due to her high energy and inability to be social with other dogs,” according to the group.
But a recruiter visiting the shelter recognized her potential and saved her. She was named for the Bassett hound on “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV show and got to meet James Best, the actor who played Flash’s owner, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, on the show.
Flash worked from 2005-’13 at the Yakima (Wash.) Police Department. She worked with the Patrol Division, two Narcotics Task Force Units and the regional SWAT Team, “conducting high risk search warrants for narcotics. Flash had three handlers throughout her career and was the first narcotics K-9 assigned to the Patrol Division in the history of the department,” according to Project K-9 Hero.
But Flash is only one of thousands of dogs that work in many branches of local, state and federal government.
“When they retire, they have no funding or anything, and that’s when they need help the most, and that burden can fall on the handler,” Bolyard said.
The dogs have “more medical needs, they’ve been in and out of patrol cars, they’ve been over in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bolyard noted. “We have dogs that have done everything. We have arson dogs, we have bomb-sniffing dogs, we have narcotic dogs in the program. We have military dogs.”
Project K-9 Hero provides up to $3,000 per year for medical needs, ships food to the handler and pays up to $500 for cremation or burial services when the dog’s service ends.
Most dogs retire at about 10 years old and live to about 15, Bolyard said. The group estimates it costs about $20,000 per dog total.
The number of K-9s in the program depends on funding; 15 dogs are in the program.
An interactive map on the group’s website shows which states program dogs come from. Their bios and photos are also on the site.
The book Johnson wrote, “ K-9 Flash Becomes a Hero,” is sold on the group’s website and Amazon to raise funds. T-shirts and other items are also sold, and donations are accepted.
©2017 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)
McClatchy-Tribune News Service