Central Indiana K9 Association Works to Improve & Expand Training Opportunities for K9 Officers
When Theresa Brandon and Corporal Kyle Schaefer talk about dogs, their faces light up. The two share a passion not only for canines, but also for the faithful work that trained Central Indiana K9 dogs take on when they devote their lives to law enforcement.
Brandon and Schaefer connected early last year when Brandon, a Hendricks County resident and former Marine sergeant, reached out to Schaefer, a K9 handler with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office. After sharing her ideas on raising funds and building a monument to honor K9s, Schaefer talked about his goals for building a permanent training site. Together they formulated the mission of a new nonprofit. The name Central Indiana K9 Association was established by the nonprofit’s board of directors, which met for the first time in April 2019.
“I’m enamored with working with law enforcement and their K9s, and wanted to upgrade the standards here in Hendricks County and beyond,” Brandon explains.
Paying tribute to the dogs’ fierce loyalty to their partners, as well as their tenacious work ethic, was also important to Brandon. Take Harlej, the fallen K9 who worked with the Fishers Police Department. Last November he died in the line of duty.
“Dogs can hear, see and smell things a human cannot,” Brandon says. “It would have taken multiple agencies and several dozen officers to locate the suspect Harlej found. One-hundred percent, that K9 saved his partner’s life.”
Brandon believes that honoring a K9 officer for such devotion is important, and the Indianapolis community wholeheartedly agrees.
“Following Harlej’s memorial service, the streets were lined, mile after mile, with families and their pets,” Brandon says. “The emotions surrounding these dogs are real.”
According to Brandon, the Central Indiana K9 Association has three goals: 1) To establish the shadow fund, a medical grant program that provides financial assistance to retired K9s who have served in Indiana, 2) To build a training facility in order to elevate training opportunities for multiple jurisdictions, and 3) To build a working dog monument that honors K9s who served and/or were killed in action.
“Even those who pass after retirement, we want to recognize that they put their life on the line and enhanced law enforcement,” Brandon says.
When Schaefer and Brandon first conceived of a training facility, they were steadfast in thinking big.
“We could have kept it solely in Hendricks County, but we envisioned it on a much larger scale, incorporating all of central Indiana,” Schaefer says.
K9 officers must currently travel outside of Indiana to receive formal, professional training. The new facility will offer formalized, specialized, intense training.
“I’d like to bring in trainers from all over the world,” Schaefer says. “I want this to become the go-to training organization in central Indiana.”
Bringing in trainers will also create financial opportunities for community businesses like hotels and restaurants.
“It’ll keep dollars within the state,” says Schaefer, who selects the K9s for the program.
Training begins the moment the puppies are weaned.
“We start when they are puppies to build that hunt drive,” Schaefer says. “As they grow, they need to display a level of maturity and a certain drive to succeed in the job. They are the Ferraris of the dog world.”
Brandon has set a goal of raising $1.5 million, which will go towards erecting the training facility and the monument, as well as landscaping, furniture and materials. The facility will provide equipment and classrooms, and a controlled training environment.
“We won’t be the only ones using it,” Schaefer says. “We anticipate other agencies will rent it out. We believe this facility will be highly used.”
The organization is looking for a donation of three to five acres of land situated close to interstate 465 for easy access by all nine counties covered in their geographic zone. They wanted the facility to be close to interstates 465 and 70, for accessibility to as many law enforcement officers as possible. Because the Central Indiana K9 Association services nine counties, including Marion and the counties around it, Brandon and Schaefer have been meeting with various community foundations, and received a grant from the Hendricks County Community Foundation. Through all their meetings, they’ve found that the best form of public relations are the dogs themselves.
March 13 was National K9 Veterans’ Day—a day that pays tribute to all of the wonderful work these dogs do. Two fundraising events were scheduled for March 13 and 14 that unfortunately had to be canceled. You may still donate to the Central Indiana K9 Association, however, by visiting cik9.org. They hope to schedule future community celebrations in the future that honor the service of these incredible dogs.
“We want to get people excited about what K9s do for us,” Schaefer says. “Their noses are infinitely stronger than ours. No instrument can duplicate it. They can find things behind doors or hidden in cars that we can’t see. They find people, bombs and drugs, and in doing so protect other officers as well as the general public.”
The dogs’ number one duty is to protect their handler.
“The relationships I’ve seen between officers and their dogs is similar to people serving in combat in the foxhole,” Brandon says. “They literally have their backs against each other. It’s them against the enemy, side by side. They each rely on the other to get through.”
Deputy Nate Hibschman with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office understands this bond firsthand. That’s why he’s passionate about asking the community to support the shadow fund. He sees what K9s endure, due to their high drive to perform and make their handlers happy. He has witnessed just how hard these dogs work and how much energy they bring to each task they perform – even when they are past their prime.
“Oftentimes these dogs will work until they drop,” Hibschman says. “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.”
Brandon and Schaefer feel fortunate to have connected with community members who are equally enthusiastic about the project, and who bring their own sets of skills to the table. Ken Sebree of Sebree Architects offered to design the training site pro bono. He’s created a layout similar to a campus, with indoor and outdoor training areas and a tactical house. The layout also includes a beautiful K9 monument located in the front of the facility. Sebree knew the organization didn’t want to incur high utility costs, so he designed solar roofing on the back side of the facility. He also made sure to close off certain areas and keep everything on one level.
“(Sebree) listened to our needs and turned those needs into functionality and beauty,” Brandon says.
Little Town Marketing offered to handle the Central Indiana K9 Association website pro bono.
“We’ve been fortunate to connect with like-minded, civic-minded folks in the community who share our passion for dogs,” Brandon says.
For more info and to donate to the Central Indiana K9 Association, visit cik9.org.