Kristi Schiller says the story stopped her cold.
Watching a news broadcast about a grief-stricken Houston-area deputy who lost his K9 partner during a struggle with a suspect, the reporter mentioned there wasn’t enough money to give the officer a replacement pup. A self-described lover of both dogs and law enforcement, Schiller dug into her own pocket to pay for a new K9 partner for the deputy. That was four years and sixty dogs ago.
Police K9’s do important work, no one disputes that, but many police and sheriff’s departments are cash crunched and have been forced to cut K9s from the budget. The highly trained dogs can cost upwards of $15,000, just for the initial purchase. Schiller saw a need and vowed to fill it. She started K9s4COPS, a non-profit organization that buys and trains the dogs and then gives them away to law enforcement officers. Her first fundraiser was in her backyard. She began knocking on corporate doors all over Texas, asking for donations.
“Kristi Schiller is not a gal you say no to,” says a friend who became a supporter.
Any law enforcement agency can apply and Schiller has enlisted a handful of deputies and police officers who review the applications once a quarter and make recommendations. Those who receive good news travel to Houston to choose and train with their K9 partner before returning home as a team. Schiller’s dogs are now fighting crime in 17 states.
Pasadena, Texas Police Office Mark Brinker received his K9 partner, Austin, in January.
“It would be a whole different show without him,” Brinker says.
Schiller deflects the credit, “It’s amazing what they’ve done with what little I’ve given them.”
Instead, she wants to tell you about her next challenge, giving dogs to schools. The mom of a young daughter, Schiller has launched K9s4KIDS and has given away six so far to promote what she calls a safe learning environment.
KHOU 11’s Courtney Perna visits the K9s 4 Cops organization, a non-profit providing law enforcement agencies, school districts and college campus police departments with K9s trained and ready for action. Watch the video.
K9 Dogs do What no Machine or Human Can
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.
The tragic story of a police K9 lost in the line of duty inspired the founding of an organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness of law enforcement and ensuring public safety.
Harris County Precinct 4 Deputy Ted Dahlin spent more than three years building up an intense level of trust with his partner.
The two had gone through rigorous training together, and out on patrol, Dahlin was secure in the knowledge that his partner would lay down his life to protect Dahlin’s if necessary, without question and without hesitation.
That’s what partners do—particularly, partners of the four-legged variety.
“When you’re on an eight- or 10-hour shift and you’re subject to call out 24/7, you spend a lot of time with your dog,” Dahlin said. “Once they’ve found that first or second bad guy who could have killed you if he wanted to, you learn to trust your K9.”
In the late afternoon hours of Dec. 22, 2009, Dahlin and his K9 partner, a 5-year-old Czech-German shepherd named Blek, responded to a burglary call. It was the last call Dahlin and Blek would ever work together. Two burglary suspects, surprised by the arrival of uniformed officers, had fled into a wooded area of north Houston. Blek went in after them, just as he was trained to do, but he didn’t come out.
One of the burglary suspects, a 17-year-old named Cornelious Harrell, strangled Blek to death. Dahlin had lost his partner and his friend.
“That night was very hard,” Dahlin remembers. “I spent more time with Blek than I did my family. When I lost him, it kind of took the wind out of my sails. “Really, all I wanted after that night was to see something good come from that horrible incident.” And in fact, something good would come from it.
Learning of Dahlin’s loss and Blek’s sacrifice while watching the evening news, Houston-area philanthropist and animal lover Kristi Schiller was moved to act. She called a local politician she knew and inquired about donating a new K9 to the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office. Her generous request was met with little more than questions and bureaucratic red tape. “I quickly found it wasn’t as easy to donate a dog as I thought it would be,” Schiller says.
Next, Schiller took to the Internet in search of some sort of charitable organization that could cut through the red tape and help her fulfill her wish of donating a K9. Again, she came up empty, but she did learn through her Internet search that more than a dozen law enforcement agencies, just in her home state of Texas, were in the process of trying to acquire K9s. She also learned that a trained K9 carried an initial price tag of between $10,000 and $15,0000, and that K9 unit budgets were often the first casualty of rough economic times within a police department.
“I saw a need that wasn’t being fulfilled and decided that I needed to do something to help. I decided that this was my calling,” Schiller says. “I called our lawyer and said I wanted to start a charity.”
In June 2010, Schiller founded K9s4COPs with the mission of raising charitable funds to acquire and donate trained K9s to law enforcement agencies in need. On March 27, 2011, the organization received its 501 (c)(3) non-profit status, and less than a month later, K9s4COPs made its first donation to the Harris County (Texas) Sheriff’s Department: four K9s named Boomer, Fozzie, Mikey and Tamara.
Since then, K9s4COPs has grown exponentially. In 2011, the organization donated 10 K9s to two agencies in Texas. In 2012, the tally was 13 K9s to nine agencies in three states. So far this year, K9s4COPs has gifted 19 K9s to 15 agencies in seven different states, and in just over two years since its inception has raised more than $2 million to support the cause.
“We’re filling a gap that counties and districts often can’t fill,” said K9s4COPs Executive Director Liz Lara-Carreno. “We don’t want money to ever be an issue getting in the way of an officer having a K9 and performing the work they do in the community.”
The Harris County Sheriff’s Department, recipient of K9s4COPs’ first-ever gift, has since received 16 K9s from the organization, bringing the department K9 unit’s roster to 23 K9s.
Sgt. Mike Thomas has been with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department since 1985 and has spent the last 22 years working with the K9 unit. He’s worked his way from the bottom up— starting out as a bite-suit-wearing decoy during K9 training sessions and now serving as day- shift sergeant as well as training sergeant—and he’s seen the unit grow. Thanks to K9s4COPs, he says, the department’s K9 unit has almost tripled in size in the time he’s worked there.
The addition of all those well-trained dogs has benefitted not only the department and the officers they patrol with. More importantly, it’s benefitted the community as a whole—and the benefit is quantifiable.
“Those 16 dogs that K9s4COPS have donated have improved the quality of life for the citizens of Harris County,” he says. “You think about the felony suspects they’ve taken off the streets, the dope they’ve taken off the streets. One of our dogs in the last year has taken $6 million dollars worth of drugs off the street, and I have several that have taken over $4 million.”
Deputies Alex Chapa and Daniel Kerrigan are two of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department officers who have benefitted from the generosity of K9s4COPs. Both took a trip with Sgt. Thomas and other deputies to a kennel several states away to select their donated K9 partners.
For Kerrigan, who had never owned a dog before and went to the kennel with no preconceived notions, the selection of Dutch shepherd Bailey, dual trained for patrol and narcotics detection, was all about the eye test. Chapa, on the other hand, had more of a predetermined idea about the qualities he would look for in a new partner.
“Going in, I knew I wanted a smaller dog,” Chapa said. “I’m about 5 feet 8 inches, 185 pounds or so, and I didn’t want a dog that would drag me through the woods or knock me off my feet.”
Chapa found his perfect match in Rocco, a Belgian Malinois with specialized training as a patrol K9 and in explosive detection.
“He was probably the smallest dog I saw, but he had the biggest attitude out of all of them. He was everything I wanted: a small dog with a crazy motor.”
Both deputies agree that the K9 partners they’ve received through the generosity of K9s4COPs are helping them perform their duties better and more confidently.
“At the sheriff’s office, we don’t have two-man units, so this is the best you could ask for,” Chapa said. “You always have someone there that has your back. If somebody’s trying to fight me or hurt me, I’ve always got Rocco there to have my back. I’ve got my own support 24/7.”
Kerrigan learned very early on in his career with the K9 unit that the sense of security Chapa describes can turn very real.
Just out of K9 school, Kerrigan and Bailey saw their first real-world deployment when they were called with other officers to respond to a home invasion. Gunfire was exchanged, and the armed suspect fled into a wooded area. After a good deal of searching through the brush, Kerrigan and his dog located the suspect, who turned his gun on Kerrigan. That’s when Kerrigan’s K9 partner went into action, bursting toward the armed suspect, hitting him hard in the arm and knocking the gun loose. The suspect was taken into custody, and Kerrigan and his K9 lived to serve another day.
Now having served with K9 Bailey for two years, Kerrigan has developed a keen appreciation for the abilities of these brave service dogs. They are valuable partners in the war on crime.
“Since I became a K9 handler, my ability to catch suspects is probably two or three times what it was before. And that’s just one handler,” he says. “Our K9 unit has more than doubled in size in the two years I’ve been here, so if you factor in the money seizures, the narcotics seizures, the fleeing suspects we’ve caught, the armed suspects we’ve taken off the streets and you multiply that times the 15 or 16 dogs we’ve gotten, that’s a lot of bad guys K9s4COPS has taken off the streets through their gifts to us.”
Besides the physical gift of police K9s, the K9s4COPs organization is also providing a valuable service to law enforcement in the area of training. This past October, K9s4COPs hosted its first Texas K9 Officers Conference and Trials in Houston, bringing in subject matter experts from around the U.S. to share knowledge with the 75 K9 officers who attended. The officers were able to learn new techniques and gain valuable TCLEOSE (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education) certification hours. This inaugural conference was such a success that plans are already being made for a larger conference in 2014.
On the 2013 conference’s final day, 30 K9/handler teams had the opportunity to let off a little steam and put their abilities on display at the Hard Dog Fast Dog Competition at Thorne Stadium in Houston. K9 competitors were put to the test and judged on the power and strength with which they could hit a bite-suit-clad decoy (Hard Dog) and how fast they could run (Fast Dog).
Fittingly, it was two well-trained K9s4COPs-donated dogs from the Harris County Sheriff’s Department that took home top honors in the competition. Alex Chapa’s partner Rocco posted a 31 mph sprint time to win Fast Dog, and Daniel Kerrigan’s partner Bailey finished off a dead run by putting a ferocious hit on a decoy to take Hard Dog honors.
While the event was a lot of fun for the participants and for members of the public who gathered to cheer on the competitors, Chapa noted that the K9s4COPs Hard Dog Fast Dog Competition provided more than just entertainment value.
“Basically, we were competing in what we do,” he said. “You know, we don’t really get graded on the job. They just tell you, ‘Hey good job’ or, ‘hey you caught the bad guy.’ Getting to see the other dogs work and getting to meet other handlers from all over Texas gave me something to work on moving forward.”
Standing with K9s4COPs founder Kristi Schiller and receiving their
Hard Dog and Fast Dog awards at midfield of Thorne Stadium, Kerrigan and Chapa were able to reflect on the real value of Schiller’s young organization—both to themselves personally and to the community at large.
“I know for sure if it wasn’t for K9s4COPs, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Chapa noted. “Our K9 unit wouldn’t be as strong as it is.”
“It’s really cool that we get to work with dogs,” Kerrigan said. “But when you break it down to what it’s really accomplishing, it’s a lot bigger than just more cops with dogs. It’s safer people.
“While I’ve benefitted from having the K9 they donated,” he said. “I think our community has benefitted even more—the good guys in the community, anyway.”
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.
I’m simply stunned at the blinding success of the 3rd Annual Diamonds & Dirt Barrel Horse Classic.
To think it all started a little over three years ago because I – the proclaimed Queen of the Internet (and Facebook Fasting Failure)—didn’t want to travel out of state to watch my horses run.
With a payout and prize package worth $820,000, we’ve definitely brought “The Bling Back To Texas!”
Not only did we have a blast with our barrel racing friends from across the country, but we raised money and awareness for K9s4COPs.
Our 3rd Annual Dog & Pony Show alone raised enough to purchase at least three K9s for budget-challenged law enforcement agencies and schools. Sponsored by our good friends Jeff and Andrea of Busby Quarter Horses, the Dog & Pony Show was that talk of the event.
We put together teams of top barrel futurity riders and match them against each other in a charity race. The one kicker—they have to be riding ponies. Think Indianapolis 500 Champions Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves dueling it out in GoKarts!
The trash talk was deep—really, really deep. And after the dust settled? Talk about a bunch of squabbling children! I guess next year we’re going to have to officially measure all the “ponies.”
Our congratulations to K9s4COPs sponsored Brittany Pozzi for winning our inaugural Diamond Jubilee Slot Race. The two-time World Champion Barrel Racer and her horse Kisskiss Bangbang pocketed $100,000 for less than 16-seconds worth of work. We heard she tried to cash her big $100,000 check at the local gas station that night. Unlike her smoking tour of the cloverleaf pattern that venture was unsuccessful.
The Diamonds & Dirt Futurity also looks to be a part of the resume of the barrel racing industry’s newest all-time leading futurity horses. Kenna Squires and The Red Dasher won the Futurity and finished second in the Diamond Jubilee Slot Race, leaving town with more than $75,000 in cash. Their earnings are now nearly $200,000 just five months into the futurity season. They also won the Fast Time Rolex, donated by my beautiful friends David and Julia Gardner.
2006 WPRA World Champion Mary Burger and Sadiefamouslastwords won the Derby and Jaime Stiener of iconic rodeo family from Austin, Texas, won our Sweepstakes with an orphaned foal out of her great National Finals Rodeo horse Tiny Artillery. Steiner’s tears of joy and bittersweet story melted our hearts.
Our dear young friend Max Chouest, who will turn 12 this May, broke a lot of hearts on Sunday when he won the Open 5D aboard VF A Sporty Design. Let me tell you. This kid can flat out ride–PEROID!
Unfortunately, his run meant no money for me. I was just thankful to crawl out of my sick bed to ride my horse and enjoy the event too.
Our event is truly second to none in presentation. Our contestants tell us that no other event in the country treats its champions with such pomp and circumstance.
None of this would have been possible without the help of our generous sponsors—Busby Quarter Horses, Gold Rush Syndicate, Double J Saddlery, P+R Productions, David Gardner’s Jewelers, RES Equine Products, Buc-ee’s, South Texas Tack, Capital Farm Credit, Dean & Draper, Granada Farms, Messina Hof Winery, Baker Hay & Feed, Cavender’s Boot City, DePaolo’s Equine Concepts, Lone Star Truck & Equipment, Matt Litz Silversmiths, Prosperity Bank, Troy Flaharty Bits & Spurs, Equine Sports Medicine & Surgery, P&P Trailers and The Wood Group.
It’s more than just a barrel race. It’s more than a charity benefit. It’s a good time for family and friends.
We can’t wait for 2015. I hope to see you there!