Kristi and K9s4COPs are featured on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson.
Texas non-profit helps buy dogs for law enforcement, schools. A look at K9s4COPs.org
I’m so very proud of the young members of our Team Woof Pack. When you have children like 8-year-old Hailey Haas that saves up her winnings to donate $2,000 to K9s4COPs and K9s4Kids it restores your faith in humankind. These kids are learning early on the joys of giving and benefiting the greater good.
It seemed only fitting to reward their hard work by offering them a premier event of their own. This November 21-23 in Bryan, Texas, Schiller Ranch will host the inaugural running of the Diamonds & Dirt Youth Barrel Horse Classic, benefiting K9s4KIDs. The event, which includes both barrel racing and pole bending, is open to contestants ages 19 and under.
I can guarantee you that this will be the finest assortment of dedicated and talented young riders from across the country as well as the greatest collection of finely-tuned, bomb-proof equine babysitters on the planet!
Children growing up with horses is something near and dear to my heart. I grew up with horses and competed in youth rodeos. I treasured my first real barrel horse Adios King. He taught me how to win and lose, and that beauty truly is more than skin deep, because the only thing beautiful about King was how he me feel. He was my King and when I lost him, I attempted to hold on to him forever. I called up the taxidermist to have my fine equine specimen stuffed only to be foiled by the words, “Does your Daddy know about this?”
Horses can teach our children so much more than tradition sports. Your teammate has no voice so you learn the value of no-verbal communication. You learn trust—you trust a 1,000 pound animal with a mind of its own to do what it’s trained to do. That in turn breeds empowerment, especially to our young women. It’s difficult for anyone that has straddled a horse and charged into competition not to feel some since of empowerment.
I truly enjoy seeing children gain confidence through horses. I’m continually amazed at my daughter Sinclair, who has become braver, bolder, faster with each race. The wins are great but it’s the sense of accomplishment—conquering a fear, doing what you’ve never done before that carries over to outside the arena.
I watched this not only with Sinclair, but with other children in our circle. I have a special place in my heart for the “Kings” I’ve been able to purchase Sinclair. These masterful ponies and horses are beyond priceless and their patience is simply immeasurable.
Many of these equine veterans are long in the tooth—if they have any left at all—and are long beyond their glory days but they still enjoy their jobs and have so much more to give. They’ve taken care of my daughter and I’ve promised them a lush life for the rest of their days.
But not all of them are content in the pasture. It’s hard to believe they wouldn’t enjoy the rest and relaxation of their twilight years, but they crave the chaos and their doting young riders.
I have several horse and ponies that have raised many of my friend’s children, serving as equine steps on the ladder to horsemanship success. I refer to my stable of babysitters and set-up horses as the lending library. Take it, learn from it, bring back in the condition you borrowed it and check out another when you’re ready.
Even the best movies get old when you watch them over and over, but watching these horses raising riders never gets old–from that trepidatious first lope to the giggles on their first “real run home.” They take bobble headed riders and turn them in to confident, focused individuals all the while giving them the rides of their young lives. They know when to walk, when to run—when to push, when to wait. Funny how the kid’s on their backs figure that out too…
Our message is being heard! The “pup”-blicity for K9s4COPs is reaching far and wide, thanks to recent national television and magazine features.
Ironically, it all started back on New Year’s Day with a larger-than-life, botanical K9 Johnny Cash parading down the streets of Pasadena, Calif., in the 125th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade.
Let me be perfectly honest, underwriting a Rose Parade float is an exorbitant undertaking—one I couldn’t begin to do without the sponsorship of Energy XXI—but it was the publicity that we needed to raise national awareness to our mission—raising money to purchase trained K9s for cash-strapped police departments, and now, school districts through our K9s4KIDs initiative.
Our Facebook “likes” and website hits grew exponentially. Then national media outlets picked up our story.
People magazine called. They featured K9s4COPs as part of their “Heroes Among Us” profiles. Our story was shared with nearly 50 million readers of America’s most popular celebrity news and human-interest magazine.
Shortly after People published the feature in their July 28th issue, we were honored to visit with award-winning broadcast journalist Janet Shamlian and her camera crew for feature on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.”
Shamlian went behind the scenes with me and watched dogs become trained K9s at Houston K9 Academy for the segment, which aired on August 7. She also learned how valuable K9s are to community safety. K9s not only keep drugs and munitions off the street, but even more important, they help keep those defending our communities safe.
CultureMap Houston also plugged the People article for us, and just recently, the Houston Business Journal caught up with me for a short Q&A segment.
Now, we’re gearing up for a trip to New York City. My own personal protection K9—my “shadow sentential” Johnny Cash will ring the opening bell at NASDAQ stock exchange on September 8. He will be honoring the memory of K9 Sirius, who died in the line on duty at the World Trade Center on September 11th, and all the other gallant K9s and their handlers who put their lives on the line to keep us all safe.
For the second straight year, Schiller Ranch has owned the Barrel Futurity Horse of the Year! My beloved Insane For Fame (affectionately known as “J-Lo”) earned the title in 2012 based on her $145,697 in earnings. I R A Grand Victory (“Ira”) claimed the honor in 2013 with $113,180 in earnings.
This honor is based on their first-year competition earnings as compiled by Equi-Stat (barrel racing’s version of Equibase for my racehorse friends) and printed in the magazine Barrel Horse News. It’s like a barrel horse rookie of the year title.
J-Lo, a daughter of the all-time leading sire of barrel horses, Dash Ta Fame, was my Craig’s List discovery that my trainer LaTricia Duke was convinced would be a waste of time to train and didn’t have a chance at making a futurity horse due to her late start to training. As if my kindred equine spirit would be slow on the uptake. Beauty does come with brains, you know.
Now retired from competition, J-Lo is the proud mother via embryo transfer of a colt by Firewaterontherocks, a young leading sire of barrel horses that was trained by Duke. Firewaterontherocks is still winning professional rodeos with his owner Robyn Herring.
Ira, too, is now retired and is expecting foals next spring via embryo transfer. We had purchased her last spring after she had won the $100,000 LG Pro Classic Slot Race. Ira is by a stallion named CEO out of Pure Victory Dash, who qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2013 with Sydni Blanchard. She is actually a two-time $100,000-race winner, having won the BFA Super Stakes in 2013.
This is an amazing accomplishment since J-Lo was our very first excursion into the world of barrel racing futurities. In just three short years, Schiller Ranch has trained and owned some of the brightest stars in the industry. It’s only a matter of time before our next champions are one that we’ve completely created on our own, from planning their conception, to their first wobbly steps on this Earth, from their first rides under saddle to their first shots at championship glory.
Cliché though it may be, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Every time I learn of another school shooting I can’t help but think what if a K9 had been present?
Teachers packing heat aren’t the answer. They underpaid superheroes to begin with; they don’t need this added responsibility. Even if they’re certified to carry, do they have to time to go the range and maintain their skills? I’m fortunate enough to have my own gun range and know what it takes to remain proficient with firearms. It takes work! I could not imagine trying to maintain that precision while trying to herd 25 screaming first graders!
What happens when children are hit with “friendly fire” from a person with the very best of intentions? You can control a weapon but what about those children around it? Who is going to stop a panicking child from running where they shouldn’t? That’s the teachers job. Keeping them out of harm’s way not inadvertently putting them there!
What if the weapon falls into the hands of a child? Or one of those students on edge that are often at the heart of theses tragic shootings?
I believe K9s are the deterrents we should be seeking. A K9 isn’t going to stop an active shooter situation, but he can sure buy an extra 45 seconds for those seeking safety or signal when someone’s entering campus with gunshot residue on their hands or firearms, or heaven forbid, explosives, in their backpacks! It’s already well documented as to how successful K9s are at keeping drugs off of campuses, why should firearms be any different?
People DO NOT realize how highly trained these dogs truly are! They might not be able to “detect crazy” but trust me their instincts on crazy are way better than ours! How many times have we seen stories where household pets have alerted their owners to dangerous situations? How about the dog that warned the family off of the abusive babysitter? The dogs, on their own, have that instinct. K9s are selected for that superior trait and it’s honed to perfection through training.
Take our own “Shadow Sentinels,” our personal protection K9s. I can’t fathom the safety of my child without her “ninja nanny.” My daughter Sinclair is 44 pounds, dripping wet. If someone was to grab her and starting running, there’s not much she can do. With K9 Daisy at her side, the odds of a stranger danger dramatically decrease.
All it takes is one code word (usually in Czech, Dutch or German) to put Daisy in stealth mode. She locks on an assailant to give Sinclair a chance to get free. When the code word for stop is engaged, she immediately stops and goes back to family pet mode. Again, the switch is immediate, from jaws clamped around an attacker one second to being attacked by pets and praise by a group of children in another.
K9s4KIDs may not be the best answer, but until someone comes up with a better one that doesn’t involve $1,000 Kevlar backpacks or blankets, I’m not budging.
2013 BFA Championship, Remember Friends & Team Woof Pack’s successful year
Kristi Schiller, the engaging head of K9s4COPs, helps cash-strapped law enforcement agencies buy top-notch police dogs
Kristi Schiller was watching the 10 p.m. news when the grief-stricken figure of Harris County deputy constable Ted Dahlin filled her TV screen.
It was clear what had happened: Man and dog had been in pursuit of burglary suspects when the dog sped ahead. The highly trained canine cornered at least one of four young men, but a fifth came up from behind and choked the dog to death.
That December 2009, Schiller started learning as much as she could about police dogs and their officers. She hoped Dahlin’s dog, Blek, would be replaced swiftly, but she discovered that was highly unlikely. Dahlin would have to do desk duty until he himself could scrape up the $10,000 to $15,000 it would take to replace his partner. And fundraising efforts tended to be low-wattage affairs – bake sales, barbecues and car washes.
Schiller, a lifelong volunteer, decided to wade in. In 2010, she started K9s4COPs, a nonprofit group that helps law enforcement agencies here and across the country buy top-quality police dogs. Today, K9s4COPs has put more than 60 canines on the streets, and an offshoot, K9s4KIDs, is helping to beef up security at nine school campuses across the state.
Early on, Schiller and her husband, Energy XXI chairman and CEO John Schiller, underwrote the program. Over time, however, generous Houstonians and law enforcement officers from across the country have opened their wallets, too.
Supporters want to strengthen the ties between communities and the men and women who work to keep them safe.
Also, it’s hard to resist Schiller and her king shepherd, Johnny Cash.
The dog, who doubles as a mascot and security guard, is 140 pounds and an expressive, gentle giant. At 43, Schiller still looks like the media personality and model she used to be. She’s been compared to both Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball. She looks like Monroe, acts like Ball and makes visitors feel as if they are a part of her high-society world.
She’s all business, however, when she’s talking about the important roles dogs play in police work.
“Blek died,” Schiller says, “but Ted Dahlin went home to his wife and children.”
READY FOR FAME
Schiller grew up in Brazosport, where, she says, the road meets the Gulf of Mexico. Her family was in the offshore-boat business, and she ate raw oysters for snacks.
After earning a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Houston, Schiller took a job in an early version of entertainment TV.
The show, “Day and Date,” was canceled after 13 weeks, but Schiller couldn’t imagine failure when she arrived in the Big Apple to start work. Her maiden name was Hoss, and she introduced herself to everyone she met: “I’m Kristi Hoss, and I’m going to be famous in about a week.”
After a few months, she was back in Houston, working at radio station KL0L, 101 FM, where she dished out entertainment news and relationship advice starting at 5 a.m.
On the air she was known as Lucy Lipps, and partly because of her easy on-air persona and partly because of her interest in technology and social media, her reputation grew.
Forbes magazine named her “Queen of the Internet” in 1997.
“I loved it,” Schiller says. “And then I realized things were getting out of control. People knew me, and I didn’t know them.”
Schiller briefly worked as a stockbroker.
“But that didn’t last,” she says. “So I moved to New Orleans.”
In the matchmaking department, Schiller was surprisingly effective – she fixed up nine couples who actually got married. But she herself was single, rich in friends but poor in boyfriends. Then, when she was 30, a friend tried to fix her up. “Oh, honey,” she told him, “this isn’t going to work. I’m the matchmaker.”
Finally, however, Schiller agreed to meet the wildcatter who would be her future husband. It was July 2001, a hurricane was brewing in the Gulf, and the French Quarter was flooding.
“John was completely wigged out,” Schiller says. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve lived through 150 of these things.’ ”
The date didn’t last long, but both were smitten. They met again the next week, and they’ve been together ever since.
Sinclair, their daughter, was born in 2006. She was 6 in 2012.the year of the Sandy Hook, Conn., school shooting That’s when Schiller decided to start K9s4KIDs, which she is hoping to expand along with K9s4COPs.
She is not opposed to guns – she’s a member of the National Rifle Association and has a license to carry. But, she says, one protection dog is a better investment than a school full of armed teachers.
“They are underpaid heroes,” Schiller says, “but they’re not in the business of reading, writing and Remingtons. When they were hired, nobody asked them, ‘How’s your aim?’ ”
EXPANDING HER CHARITY
Today hundreds of volunteers are involved in Schiller’s organization.
One is Bill Stanton, who describes himself as a private eye and former cop from the Bronx.
“Kristi reminds me of a modern-day Lucille Ball – she creates a tornado wherever she goes. But it’s a tornado for good, and her energy and enthusiasm are infectious. She has this down-home-iness that people just love.”
Sgt. Mike Thomas, in charge of the canine unit for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, appreciates Schiller’s can-do attitude.
“She may have a ditzy, blond persona in public, but she’s intelligent, and she’s learned the dog business,” Thomas says. “People respect that.”
Early on, the sergeant says, Schiller gave his department five dogs. They were trainable but the equivalent of C students, he says. Later, Thomas took Schiller to Indiana and showed her where he prefers to buy police dogs. In the middle of the kennel tour, she grabbed him.
“I’m sorry, so sorry,” Schiller told him. “I just realized I went to the Dollar Store to buy dogs, and this is Saks Fifth Avenue. These are the dogs that you need.”
To Thomas and the dozens of other lawmen and -women whom Schiller has helped, she’s a hero.
“Of course I’m not,” Schiller says. “The heroes are in uniform.”
HOW TO HELP
K9s4COPs welcomes donations to help purchase and train dogs, provide instructions and certifications for canine handlers, and pay for dog food and veterinary care. For more information, call 713-523-COPS or go to K9s4COPs.org.
Foaling season has arrived at Schiller Ranch. By the time you read this, we may have as many as four spindly-legged, future champions on the ground.
Raising horses and allowing my daughter Sinclair to experience the wonders of birth and the trials and tribulations of making a champion—a real world, life study—was one of the main reasons I came back to horses.
I’ve placed our mares in the very capable hands of Donna Hanover, who becomes a nocturnal being during foaling season. She keeps sharp records on foaling dates and carefully observes each mare for impending signs of delivery. Even though the hours are horrible, she loves her job and is damn good at it.
Schiller Ranch has special video monitors so we can watch the mares from anywhere—even Casa Chaos in Houston. Most nights when Donna’s up and watching, I am too.
I’ve done so many exciting things in my life—traveled to so many exciting places—met so many wonderful and fascinating people, but to walk into barn hours before the first rays of sunlight have crested the horizon, smell the fresh shavings and hear the first soft knickers of a mare to her foal…it’s a quiet glory that few will ever understand. The pride you feel when the just minutes after birth a foal is standing and walking is almost indescribable.
You marvel at how something so fragile—and uncoordinated—will grow into a 1,000 pound athlete with speed, grace and the desire to be the best.
That desire to be the best is what most people outside the horse world don’t understand. You can select for many superior athletic traits, but the hardest of all to harness is desire. Insane For Fame, my beloved J-Lo, has it and so does my stallion, Epic Leader.
Sadly, Mother Nature can be so cruel. We lost my royal baby—the first foal by Epic Leader out of Insane For Fame late last fall. The recipient mare that was carrying J-Lo’s baby via embryonic transplant birthed a big, black colt much too early due to a twisted umbilical cord.
The ranch felt the loss so keenly that it became the elephant in the room. No one wanted to talk about it. Our year of waiting and great expectations were all for naught.
Thankfully, I own the factory and we will try again this spring. Until then, I’ll watch my monitor—text and call Donna to no end—and make my treks down to the foaling barn whenever our newest foals arrive. Each one is special. Each one touches my heart, simply because they’ve arrived safe and sound.
Kristi Schiller talks all things K9s4COPs with Houston P.A.
Click here to download the MP3 of the interview.