Justin Melnick, one of the actors from the TV series SEAL Team, hosted our recent fundraiser on Oct 3rd and brought his dog Dita, the “Hair Missile” along too. After all, CIK9 is all about the dogs and she was invited in addition to the other three dogs who attended.
Whether law enforcement officers or actors playing the role of a K9 handler, while they value the training they go through, the adrenaline pumps their heart rate, but the humans know that this is training and even if they fail, they will be fine in the end.
The thing about dogs is they don’t have the higher sense of reasoning as humans do. With these high caliber working dogs, when we as trainers do our jobs correctly, to the dog a training scenario and a real-life deployment look the same. Dogs also don’t understand the concept of “pretend” or “make-believe”. To a working dog like Dita, the “Hair Missile” every time she jumps out of a helicopter, or charges through a hail of gunfire [blanks], or is running down a fleeing terrorist [decoy] she is doing it for real and with a singular purpose in her mind; to complete each task as she was trained and to the best of her ability in hopes of getting that reward she so highly covets.
These dogs genuinely love to work and would do it all day sometimes if we would let them. So even after multiple takes when filming a scene, for Dita each and every time, this is the real thing!
CIK9 provides quarterly training opportunities for working K9 teams across Central Indiana. We co-host with agencies, vetting professional trainers to travel to Central Indiana so that the K9 teams do not have to travel out of state. Training with a purpose helps to ensure success in law enforcement because of the skill and not in spite of it. Central Indiana K9 Association (CIK9) wants to elevate the skill levels of every K9 Team across Indiana and beyond.
At Common Scents, our most recent training session, techniques learned showed how the K9s learn for themselves, that their eyes and ears mean nothing when it comes to earning the reward object. Training this way eliminates 95% of the cues that may cause false indications. This training course was attended by 24 dog/handler teams representing 10 different departments. For great images from this training and others we’ve had, please visit our Instagram page!
From NOVA: Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude—it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute, scientists say. “Let’s suppose they’re just 10,000 times better,” says James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, who, with several colleagues, came up with that jaw-dropping estimate during a rigorously designed, oft-cited study. “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well.”
Everyone understands that a dog’s sense of smell is incredible, but so is their hearing and eyesight. Training is critical to ensure the use of the sense that the handler is relying on at any given time. How many times have you walked a perfectly calm dog and suddenly…. SQUIRRELL! All dogs tend to respond to visual and audible cues which is fine unless you need them to focus on just the smell. Can you imagine being asked to focus on a scent – when you’re surrounded by your favorite thing in the whole world – tennis balls?!
Within months of first starting our organization, we had raised $1,500 to ensure that we would be positioned to assist a retired K9 in need of a medical grant. While the overall idea was to ensure that the handler/owner would not suffer a financial crisis in caring for the dog, the ultimate goal is to make certain the K9 receives the care needed in spite of the cost. These funds can also be used to assist with end-of-life care which has been provided on a couple of occasions.
February 2021, we awarded our very first Shadow Fund grant to Officer Stickford on behalf of K9 Pipo. As a working dog, Pipo served for three years with the military and then completed his career with eight years with a local Indianapolis Police Department. Pipo was diagnosed with cancer, underwent surgery and chemo which was extremely expensive. The CIK9 Board of Directors agreed that given his valiant service at both the national and local level, K9 Pipo was a good candidate and received a $2,000 grant.
On March 4th, we reviewed a second application. This one was from Officer Jarrin Franklin for retired K9 JohnE. Having served for four years with the Indiana State Police SWAT Team, JohnE was retired after losing a limb to cancer. At the young age of five years and with the success of the surgery and chemo, K9 JohnE was determined to be an excellent candidate with a long retirement ahead of him. We anticipate that the total grant will be close to $2,000.
Supporting these retired working dogs allows us to honor their years of valuable service to our communities, state, and nation. It is fitting given that they are faithful, vigilant, and selfless.
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 K9 Officer 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 K-9/Patrol Unit Zionsville Police Department