Shelter dog saves itself and joins the sheriff’s office
--Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
There was a time when someone loved Daisy.
The dog was found with a tracking chip installed.
So, there once was a time when, if she ever wandered off, whoever owned her wanted to make sure she found her way back home. It just wasn’t the day she was found, abandoned, along the side of a road by a Fauquier County animal control officer.
The chip worked, sort of.
The owner attached to the chip told Fauquier County SPCA officials the 3-year-old dog wasn’t their responsibility anymore.
“They said they gave the dog to another owner,” the SPCA said.
The SPCA never found that second owner.
The four-legged canine with a cold nose was being given the cold shoulder, so Daisy found a new, temporary home at the SPCA and began her wait to be adopted.
That wait might have been a lot longer than her barking neighbors because Daisy was half pit bull and it was obvious.
According to the ASPCA, the pit bull has acquired a reputation as an unpredictable and dangerous menace.
Petfinder, a national pet adoption site, wrote in its adoption guide that the pit bull earned this bad reputation because of “unscrupulous breeding by less-than-upstanding citizens, negatively sensationalized (and often false) media accounts, and longstanding myths surrounding these types of dogs have led to their vilification. Some people, in response to misperceptions about the breed, believe that all Pit Bull-type dogs are to be feared and promote banning these breeds.”
It didn’t matter that the other half of the dog was a far more welcome family pet, the Chocolate Labrador Retriever.
She looked like a pit bull, and despite intensive educational campaigns by Pit Bull lovers, the world still winced at the idea of bringing home a dog with the reputation of Pit Bulls as a lovable, friendly, family pet.
The Fauquier SPCA can’t save every dog so those who don’t get adopted have less pleasant endings.
Saddled with a bad reputation, Daisy’s chances at adoption seemed low and so did the number of days she probably had left on earth.
Daisy probably didn’t think her luck was changing for the better when the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office rolled up to the SPCA to visit her.
After all, the last time she saw a sheriff’s uniform its ended up with her behind doggy kennel bars.
Not this time.
You see, Daisy had made quite the impression on the SPCA staff as a dog that liked to work and had an extremely high energy level so they called the sheriff.
It just so happened that the same folks who have to see people and sometimes dogs at their worst were on the prowl for just such an animal, and they had made their way to Daisy’s kennel to see if her best was good enough to work for them.
According to Ray Acors, patrol division, Fauquier County Sheriff, the county had a need for another canine unit with one of its dogs reaching retirement age, and the police force decided to leave no kennel unturned, so to speak, as they tried to find a new K-9.
“We were looking for a dog with a good hunt drive,” said Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office senior dog handler Will Harner.
According to Harner, one of the ways dog handers test potential police dogs is with a toy.
“I find a toy the dog likes and we hide it,” said Harner. “If the dog hunts real hard for it, it tells us there’s potential.”
But the sheriff’s office wasn’t looking for an intimidating dog to protect its patrolmen or will suspects into non-violent surrenders, which might seem more natural for a pit bull and Labrador mix.
You have to love irony here
They thought she might make a good explosives detection, or bomb dog.
They thought a pit bull mix dog, seemingly doomed as a danger to society, could very well be a bomb-sniffing hero one day.
The story gets better.
The new handler who would be working with Daisy was a former animal control officer, turned patrolwoman, Master Deputy Joy Weaver.
“I always wanted to be a canine handler since I was a kid,” said Weaver.
The Fauquier High School graduate said she was inspired by a show she watched on television as a kid called K-9 Cop so when she saw that there was an opportunity to transfer into a canine handler position on the police force, she made her move.
She had competition though. Deputy first Class Brian Colbert wanted to be a canine handler too.
Daisy’s fate was tied to Weaver’s fate. You see, the money the sheriff’s department saved by finding a SPCA dog enabled the department to fund not one but two new canine handlers.
It didn’t hurt that both Weaver and Colbert blew away the evaluators during their try-outs either.
“There was an opening for one dog handler but both of them did so well that the sheriff decided himself to go with two handlers,” said Acors.
Daisy wasn’t even certified yet and she had already helped save her handler.
One of the first things Weaver did when she was paired with Daisy was to change her name – kind of.
“I told her Daisy just wasn’t going to work,” said Weaver, “ so I changed the way we spelled it to ‘Dazee’ so that it had more punch to it.”
Dazee and Weaver began their training, along with Colbert and his dog, Hank, a fully pedigreed Shepard Malinois fresh off the boat from the Netherlands, on Aug. 26 in Spotsylvania County.
Hank’s in training to be a narcotics and patrol dog which means he and Colbert get classes on obedience, agility, tracking, evidence searches, open area and building searches, and narcotics, or in the case of Dazee, explosives detection.
On a first impression no one would probably ask to pet Hank whereas Dazee, well she bounces around the police training grounds like a kid with an ice cream cone.
“I thought she was cute,” said Weaver upon meeting Dazee for the first time.
Still police dog and dog handler training is serious business.
After a few weeks on the job, and more than her fair share of bruises, Weaver is still motivated to be Dazee’s handler.
“There’s no question that I still want to be here,” said Weaver. “The hardest part for me is learning to mesh with Dazee and being a team.”
It takes much more than a good law enforcement officer to be a canine handler, according to Acors.
His career experience with police canine handlers has taught him that they’re a different breed.
“When patrolman go home for the day that’s it. Dog handlers go home with a dog they still have to take care of,” said Acors, who added that canine handlers receive an additional 2.5 percent increase in their paycheck to help curb the costs of their paw-powered partner.
Police dogs make a huge difference on the police force as well, Acors said.
Harner added that typical police dog duties include tracking people, looking for narcotics and search warrants.
“One of the perks of our job is that we deter a lot of people from doing bad things,” said Harner.
“Once we got dogs and tasers we noticed we got into a lot less fights because people really started paying attention,” said Acors. “People realized that they might get hurt.”
“I feel more comfortable when a canine handler shows up on a scene because I know he’s got a four-legged partner who can outrun any man on earth,” said Acors.
With a few more weeks of training left for Weaver and Dazee, Colbert and Hank, before they are certified as dog handlers with the sheriff’s office, both teams are focused on forming the bonds they need to function as a team.
Weaver doesn’t seem to notice any more than Dazee has some pit bull in her. And, chances are if the once forgotten stray ever has to do her job, the people’s lives she may very well save won’t mind either.
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