TTirado – R249 was an explosive detection dog for the Transportation Security Administration. TTirado was born in the hands of TSA as part of their puppy program that they ran for many years. Each litter that was born was designated a letter of the alphabet so TTirado was part of the “T” litter in 2009. Each dog of the litter was given a name honoring a hero in our country. TTirado was named after FDNY Engine 23 firefighter Hector Luis Tirado Jr. who gave his life on 9-11-01.
TTirado was partnered with his handler Keith in March of 2012 after his first couple of years were spent with a foster family and learning the skills of becoming a detection dog through the Canine Training Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. TTirado and Keith were part of one of the first classes of Passenger Screening dog teams that would use the K9s detection abilities to not only search traditional items like vehicles, boxes, buildings, and bags, but the K9s learned an additional skill that people could potentially be carrying something with them as they moved through an area.
TTirado and Keith graduated from Lackland in May of 2012 as a team with Keith being a new handler and TTirado being his first dog. At the time, Keith was living and stationed at Honolulu International Airport where the team worked for their first couple of years. In May of 2014, they transferred to Indianapolis International Airport where they remained for the rest of TTirado’s career.
TTirado was a fantastic first dog passing every evaluation along the way with no lapse in certification status. During TTirado’s career, he has helped support security operations for Super Bowl 52, the Final Four, the Kentucky Derby, the Pro Bowl, Indy 500, and the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. TTirado has also performed sweeps for the Prime Minister of Australia, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. The team has had opportunities to travel for work assignments all over the country, but their primary focus was the Indianapolis airport.
TTirado and Keith created a wonderful bond over the years with all that they have seen and done together. Keith knew every movement and thought of TTirado and vice versa. Over the years their detection abilities grew stronger and stronger. Keith recalls his first year as a handler for a training exercise he worked a senior handler’s dog that had been on the job for about 7 years. He remembers describing to the handler that working her dog was like driving a high-end luxury car while he was driving a low-end economy car. They both serve the main purpose of getting from A to B but there is a vastly noticeable difference in how they drive and handle. After 8 years of refinement with his partner, he feels like he is driving that luxury car, and the hard work that he has put in over the years is highly rewarding.
On May 29, 2020, TTirado put on his harness for the last time finishing a full 8 year career with his partner. TTirado now gets the luxury of retiring to Keith and being a cherished pet. The best part of retirement is Keith now has the freedom to travel with TTirado as he sees fit. Mostly they will be doing trips to “grandma’s house” however they do have 3 travel objectives in mind over the next couple years. 1) To go to NYC and take him to the ground zero memorial and also FDNY Station 23 where Hector Luis Tirado Jr. worked. 2) Take him to Georgia to meet one of Hector’s sons and his family who he has been in contact with. 3) Take him back to San Antonio to see the foster family that helped raise him as a puppy during that first crucial year. Keith is now beginning the next chapter of his career with his new partner Ari who is a 3 ½-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer.
In Loving Memory of K9 Harlej, Killed in the Line of Duty
Last night, was the night as a K9 handler you train your heart for but are never truly ready.
I lost my K9 partner Harlej early this morning doing what he loved.
My memories of him are just pure joy and happiness. He was the most dedicated, hard-working, and always in relentless pursuit of everything we did.
Nobody will ever know the time it takes for a K9 to be successful. But everyone will see the successes and we had a lot of successes together.
Harlej and I spent countless hours together in the nearly 5 years I had him. I think about all the hours of training we had and the countless hours we spent together in the car driving around Fishers.
I think about all the men and women who played a role in making him great and great he was!
Harlej and I assisted in a lot of arrests and helped get a lot of bad people off of the streets to help keep the city of Fishers safe.
I will always remember how quiet Harlej was in my car, but at the same time remembering every time that I got out of my car and could see his glowing eyes staring at me with his ears up high. He always waited to be called and was ready to do whatever I asked of him. Harlej did it without fear. I knew every time I got him out of my car, he was going to help every time. Whether that was to find drugs during a walk around or tracking down a fleeing felon.
I know you’re chewing on some tennis balls right now buddy. Daddy loves you and I’m so glad you were my partner and in my life.
Love you Hars!
You are a REAL hero today, buddy. And you saved our lives last night.
OFFICER JARRED KOOPMAN
Fishers Police Department
On March 15, 2017, at approx. 5:40 PM I was training my K9 partner Jelka an all-black Belgian Malinois who was 2 years old at this time. I was working on obedience and rewarding her with her favorite toy, a ball. We were approx. 50 yards away from the road when I tossed the ball to reward her. As Jelka was running to retrieve the ball she hit it with her nose causing the ball to shoot out in front of her. She continued to chase the ball as it rolled into the street. As Jelka was approaching the ball she was hit by a Ford F-150. I can still hear the sound as if it was yesterday. I came running around the corner and I saw my partner running to me with her back left leg bone sticking out and the bottom half of her leg hanging on by a vein.
As I stood there in shock for what seemed like forever I was able to snap out of it long enough to pick her up and place her in my patrol vehicle. When placing her in the back I had to lay her on top of me and slid out from underneath her because she was unable to stand. I knew I had to get her to an emergency vet fast or I would lose her.
On our way to the vet, I could hear Jelka breathing as if she was choking on her own blood. Once I arrived at the vet I ran inside and I remember saying with tears in my eyes, “I need help, my partner is dying”. Praise the Lord, he put some amazing people there that day. They ran out without any hesitation and I picked Jelka up and placed her on the stretcher. As they were wheeling her back to the emergency room Jelka’s heart stopped beating. The surgeon cut open her chest and started to massage her heart for approx. 1 minute until it started beating again. I didn’t find this information out until a few months later.
After multiple surgeries, the vet came out to speak with me and my beautiful wife. They said Jelka is stable for now but the next 24-48 hours would be critical. Around hour 37, I received a phone call from the vet saying I might need to make funeral arguments because they were pulling 500 ML of air out of Jelka’s chest tube and they weren’t sure if they could find where it was coming from. After more surgeries and by the grace of God, the vet found a hole in one of the lobes in her lung. They removed that lobe and once again they told me the next 24-48 hours would be critical. Once we made it passed hour 48 we weren’t out of the woods yet.
Once the internal organs were taken care of it was now time to move onto the leg. Remember the left leg was hanging on by a vain with the bone sticking out. The vets didn’t want to do anything with the leg until they knew Jelka was stable. This was a stressful day also because the vets weren’t sure if they were going to be able to save the leg with all the damage it sustained. Once again God and the vets came through and they saved the leg. They had to fuse it together with nine screws and one long metal plate, but they said she’d be able to walk again as long as her body didn’t reject the screws or plate.
99 days later Jelka was released to full duty with no restrictions. Jelka continues to improve every single day and shows me and everyone else how strong you can be if you put your trust in God.
Since being released Jelka has had multiple drug seizures and has tracked a handful of suspects who’ve committed various crimes. She is truly the power of prayer.
I would like to thank MedVet, Zionsville Animal Hospital, The Town of Zionsville and everyone who supported us with their donations and prayers.
K9 CORPORAL JOSHUA STUTESMAN
Zionsville Police Department
Every day is the same for him. Same car, same words, same surroundings. You would think that with all of the routine it wouldn’t be exciting anymore. You would think that staying in an air-conditioned car would be more comfortable, but that has never been the case. You see…this is his school, these are all his schools. He takes great pride in making sure each one of them is safe and drug-free.
As soon as I open the car door he knows where we are and what his job is. We walk in the door and he turns to me, with excitement in his eyes, he is ready to hear me say: “Are you in your school?” He knows this is his school, he knows the staff and students want him here, but most importantly he knows what his job is, and is highly trained for it. It is what he lives for!
In the spring of 2013, Brownsburg Community School Corporation made history by being the 1 st school district in the state of Indiana to have a full time, narcotics detection K9 on campus. Students have been taught at an early age to “Say No to Drugs,” but as they get older their social circle gets larger and they may test the waters of independence. With these changes come exposures to new situations which then brings additional challenges. Brownsburg Schools wanted to invest in the safety of their staff and students but also wanted to give students just one more reason to be able to say “NO!” to drugs. That investment would become my K9 partner, Zeus.
Zeus was introduced to staff and students in May of 2013. If you walk the halls of any Brownsburg school with Zeus and me, you will see how welcome he is. There are always several kids calling his name and many more kids saying “Awe!!” and countless smiles when they see him.
Zeus is so much a part of the culture and environment of Brownsburg High School that his picture was placed in the staff section of the yearbook and many staff members keep dog treats at their desk so when Zeus gets a break he can go to them for a treat.
K9 Officers spend a lot of time in training. At first, it was Zeus that needed the training but I quickly learned that the more challenging student is always the one at the other end of the leash. I was the one who needed to watch for the subtle changes in his body language, the head throw at the mere whiff of a scent that was exiting a closed car door or the passing odor emanating from a backpack in the hallway. Once I was trained though, we were a great team!
I often wonder how empty my patrol vehicle would be without Zeus. There are nose prints on my windows, dog hair throughout the entire car and after several lessons learned, I always store my lunch bag in the trunk. There are times when I look down at my uniform and see spots of dog slobber or smudges from dirty paws. There are also times when he rests his head on my shoulder and looks up at me like I am his whole world. Those are the moments that I live for.
In Brownsburg, we are all proud to be a Bulldog! We are #BulldogTough and #BulldogProud, but no matter how much of a true Bulldog fan I am, Zeus will always be my #TopDog.
~Officer Kim Kiritschenko
It was a bright sunny August afternoon with the temperature pushing 90 degrees and virtually no breeze. Sitting in a dry creek bed, wearing the equivalent of five winter coats, I could feel the sweat dripping down my face as I heard the dog rapidly approaching. I would like to tell you that all the sweat was from the heat and humidity and none of it was from fear. I would like to tell you that I wasn’t nervous about the large German Shepherd barreling down on me, but both would be a lie. After what seemed like forever the dog came through the brush, clamped his teeth firmly around my arm, and began to drag me backwards up the bank where the handler was able to “take me into custody”. I got about 30 seconds to try and cool off with whatever breeze came my way before it was back into the creek bed to play Hide-and-Go-Bite with 7 more dogs. This was my introduction to K9.
From the beginning of my law enforcement career, I was fascinated by watching the K9s work. They all seemed to have such an intense drive to work no matter what they were doing. Even chasing a ball around a field was done with a mix of determination and joy, as though nothing in the world mattered more than catching and biting that fuzzy yellow ball. These dogs looked nothing like the German Shepherds I had at home who would chase after a squirrel but would give up as soon as it was out of reach. Shortly into my career, I knew I wanted to be a K9 handler for the department, so I started attending the monthly county-wide training days to watch and learn more about how these dogs worked. What started out as a way to try and learn from the sidelines quickly evolved into me volunteering to be the decoy and letting all the dogs bite me during the different scenarios (starting with that dry creek bed). To this day, I think I have learned more about the way working dogs operate by being in a bite suit than anything else I have done.
Going back to that hot August afternoon: once I had been found by the last dog and it was time to get out of the bite suit, I was dripping in sweat. I sat down on the ground in the shade and desperately tried to cool off. While drinking bottle after bottle of water I noticed that the dogs who had been placed back into air-conditioned vehicles after the track were also still panting heavily when the handlers got them out for a round of obedience or just a quick potty break. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but I would later come to understand just how hard these dogs work and how much energy they bring to each task they perform.
When I was selected to be a handler for the department, I was taught in Handler’s School to pay attention to your dog when out working: to be ready to pick up on when the dogs give an alert, but just as important is the fact that oftentimes these dogs will work until they drop. One of the most important things to do as a handler is to know when to safely stop the dog and return them to a place they can cool down and rest. It is in these dogs’ nature to keep going until they physically cannot go any further. This trait is why we choose them to do what they do, and it is what we love about them.
Like professional athletes who have pushed themselves throughout their careers, by the time these dogs are ready to retire they are often feeling the impact of their years of service. Even in retirement or near the end of their lives, these dogs still want to give everything they do 110%. They may be a little gray around the muzzle and a little slower, but they dig deep to find that youthful drive, and now it is even more important that we keep a watchful eye on them.
Please consider donating to the Shadow Fund to help and support these dogs who have left it all on the field. By helping to assist with the high cost of medical care that is typically needed with retired K9s, the Shadow Fund allows these dogs to live out the remainder of their lives in relative comfort and receive the treatments they need without creating an undue financial burden for their handlers.
–Deputy Nate Hibschman
Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office