All posts by Marvin Graser

Kristi Schiller helps cash-strapped law enforcement agencies buy top-notch police dogs

Kristi Schiller, who is photographed with guard dogs Daisy and Johnny Cash, is the Founder and Chair of K9s4COPs and will be featured in Houston Gives for her charity work on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Houston. ( Mayra Beltran / Houston Chronicle )

​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.”


K9s complete certification in Marshalltown

More than 55 K9 teams from across the state came to Marshalltown to complete narcotic certification Wednesday.

The Marshalltown Police Department K9 unit hosted the United States Police Canine Associations (USPCA) annual Iowa Narcotic Dog Certification Trials at the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and the National Guard Armory.

Sgt. Melinda Ruopp, of the Marshalltown Police Department, organized the event. She said the event tests a dog’s ability to locate and alert an illegal drug hidden in a car or room.

The exercise at the National Guard Armory required canines to locate marijuana and meth hidden in different vehicles. The officer circled every car with their K9, unaware of where the drugs were located. When the dog found the drugs it would paw, sit or signal the officer in some way.


T-R PHOTO BY STEPHANIE IVANKOVICH Eric Siemens of the Marshalltown Police Department and Raji, his K9, search cars for marijuana and methamphetamine, Wednesday, at the National Guard Armory, to complete their drug certification. In addition to Siemens, 54 other K9 teams from across the state did the same certification test in Marshalltown and at the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.


“The police officers are relying on the dog’s nose to tell them when they find the stuff,” Ruopp said. “Basically you can put a nice juicy steak in the car and the dog is not going to respond to that because he knows that’s not my job, my job is to find drugs.”

The exercise at the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office was similar, but instead of cars, the K9s had to find drugs hiding in two of three different rooms without their handler.


Eric Siemens, of the Marshalltown Police Department, said Raji, who joined the MPD last June, is fully trained.

“Basically what we do now is we keep enhancing the training, making it a little more in-depth by adding things to it that challenge both the handler and dog,” Siemens said. “It makes it harder for both of us and we keep on adding to it to make him more complex and a better dog.”

Of the two activities, Siemens said he liked watching Raji search the rooms.

“It’s fun to let the dog naturally search in his own way of finding things,” Siemens said. “If the heater is on it will blow the scent to the other room, so the dog will search over there for a long time then he’ll work it back to wherever the odor is. So it was really cool to watch that.”

In order for the team to achieve certification, Ruopp said the team must score 70 percent or find three of the four drugs hidden.


Service dog helps veterans find a purpose for living

Region – Since 9/11, dogs have become an important part of homeland security, both in the military and law enforcement. March 13 marks K9 Veterans Day, an unofficial holiday recognized in some cities and states to honor those dogs.

Specially trained dogs are now taking on a new role in the military: as service dogs for returning soldiers and veterans.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Valiant Veterans, based in Worcester, is one of the many organizations working to lower that number through programs to help veterans return home to civilian life and overcome afflictions associated with military service.

Amanda Sullivan, a Shrewsbury resident who is the executive director of Valiant Veterans, said that veterans often come home without a purpose, which can lead to depression. Dogs can give veterans “a reason to get up in the morning, something to be responsible for,” she said. “It gives them a purpose.”

In November, she adopted Gunnar, a Siberian Husky/Alaskan Malamute mix that she is training to be a service dog for a returning veteran.

Sullivan said she chose the mix of those two breeds specifically.

“Huskies are too active and high-energy,” she explained. “Malamutes are more subdued, but too big for a service dog.”


Gunnar has more of the Malamute temperament, but with the size of a Husky, about 65 to 70 pounds full-grown.

Sullivan is not a certified trainer, but has been “learning along the way.” It helps, she said, that Gunnar seems “naturally predisposed” to being a service dog.

“He makes it easy,” she said.

Gunnar is being trained to be a companion to a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury. Veteran service dogs need to be calm, but alert, according to Sullivan. They need to be able to sense when there is a situation that might cause their owner to become anxious or agitated. They are the veteran’s “battle buddy,” Sullivan said.

Now just seven months old, Gunnar will be given to his new owner at 18 months. Although the soldier who will receive Gunnar has already been chosen, Sullivan said they are keeping his or her identity a secret for now.

Since his adoption by Valiant Veterans, Gunnar has attracted a lot of attention. He has his own Facebook page with nearly 5,000 likes.

“It’s been out of control,” Sullivan remarked.

He has been busy visiting veterans, schoolchildren, reservists, and other groups all over Massachusetts to raise awareness about service dogs and the benefits they give service members.


Gunnar’s trainer Amanda Sullivan (back, center) with Gunnar and Marines of the 1st Battalion 25th
Gunnar’s trainer Amanda Sullivan (back, center) with Gunnar and Marines of the 1st Battalion 25th
Gunnar has teamed up with Midas, the 2014 mascot for Dogs on Deployment, a service that helps service members find temporary homes for their dogs while they are deployed.

Gunnar is in the running for an annual Hero Dog award from the American Humane Association. He has been nominated in the “Emerging Hero” category.

Through Gunnar, “we are creating awareness that there are other options besides suicide,” Sullivan said.

The local community can help Gunnar win the Emerging Hero award by voting for him at

For more information about Gunnar, visit his Facebook page or and click on “Gunnar.”


A Day For Heroes! Voting Now Open For American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™

Today is a special day for heroes, both two- and four-legged alike. American Humane Association, the oldest national humane organization, is pleased to announce that the semifinalist round of public voting is now open for the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™, presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation. The organization also announced that online nominations are now being accepted for the inaugural American Humane Association Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards™, presented by Zoetis Inc., which also serves as the online sponsor for the Hero Dog Awards.

Eight finalist dogs and two veterinary professionals will be flown to Hollywood to take part in the fourth annual Hero Dog Awards gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, September 27, to be broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel in late October. There they will walk the red carpet, conduct VIP interviews, and attend the awards show and black-tie gala where the winning 2014 American Hero Dog, Hero Veterinarian, and Hero Veterinary Technician will be announced.

The American public is now invited to visit to vote for their favorite dog in each of eight categories: Law Enforcement Dogs, Military Dogs, Arson Dogs (sponsored by State Farm), Search and Rescue Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Service Dogs (sponsored by Modern Dog), Therapy Dogs (sponsored by Zoetis), and Emerging Hero Dogs for ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things (sponsored by Trupanion Pet Insurance). One vote per category per day can be submitted until June 6 when this round of voting ends. This year, 24 spectacular semifinalists (the top three in each category) will be chosen in the first round of public voting. The second round, featuring a combination of public and celebrity voting, will narrow the field to the eight category finalists, who will then compete for the grand prize of 2014 American Hero Dog.

Each of the eight finalists will win $1,500 for their chosen charity selected from the contest’s list of 15 charity partners. The top winner will win an additional $5,000 for their charity partner.

And Behind Every Healthy Pet (and Other Animals) is a Hero Vet or Hero Vet Tech! Pet owners and animal lovers alike are also invited to to nominate their favorite veterinary professionals dedicated to the betterment of the health and welfare of animals and the promotion of the human-animal bond. These awards are not limited to companion animal veterinarians. Professionals from all fields of veterinary medicine are eligible for entry including, but not limited to those who work in: research, specialist fields, emergency services, shelters, and those who work with large and exotic animals. The five finalists in the American Hero Veterinarian and American Hero Veterinary Technician categories will be selected by a special blue-ribbon panel of judges consisting of celebrities, veterinary professionals, and animal care professionals. Beginning June 13, the American public will be invited to vote online for their favorite veterinarian and vet tech.

“Hero dogs do so much to keep us safe, happy, and healthy. It is the least we can do to honor them on their special night every fall. We can’t wait to meet the 2014 class of Hero Dogs,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association’s president and CEO. “And to us, all vets and vet techs are heroes, and this is why we want to honor the best of the best in their field.”

This star-studded event draws animal lovers and celebrities from all over the world. Celebrity presenters and the celebrity judges who work with the public on the final two rounds of voting of the Hero Dog Awards to determine the semi-finalists and winner have included Victoria Stilwell, Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, Joey Lawrence, Miranda Lambert, Kristin Chenoweth, and many, many more. Even celebrity dogs are getting involved: “I believe all dogs are heroes!” says American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards National Spokesdog Super Smiley, who with handler, actress, and “The Pet Lifestyle Coach®” Megan Blake have their own show on Pet Life Radio and advocate to get shelter pets adopted.

“There is nothing better than a dog to provide warmth, comfort and often life-saving care for people,” added Lois Pope. “It has been my honor to serve as the presenting sponsor of the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards for the past three years because of the important place dogs have in all our hearts. Each and every one of these brave canines and their owners are heroes in my book.”

“We are excited to partner with American Humane Association for the American Humane Association Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards™,” said J. Michael McFarland, DVM, Group Director of CAD Veterinary Operations at Zoetis. “We are deeply appreciative of everything the veterinary community does to benefit pets, farm animals, working animals, and more; these awards are our way of giving back. We cannot wait to meet the winners who will be shining examples of the heroic work done every day by our Hero Vets and Hero Vet Techs.”


2014 AHA Hero Dog Awards :: Vote K9 Lucky

K9 Officer Lucky

During the month of May 2013 I was advised that I would be receiving a K9 partner thanks to the support of the K9s4Cops organization. After looking at several K9’s I was introduced to “Lucky” and immediately a bond was formed. K9 Lucky is an all black German Shepherd from the Czech Republic. He is certified in Explosives detection and patrol work. We have become inseparable partners in the last 10 months and his drive and dedication is second to none. In our time on short time on patrol, 6 months, K9 Lucky has located 3 dangerous felony suspects. K9 Lucky has also helped sweep and clear several large events in the Houston area of explosives. Had K9s4Cops not supported our department I would not have had the opportunity to make this amazing transition into the K9 division.

Entry Category Law Enforcement Dogs
Charity Partner K9s4COPs
Location Tomball, Texas


You can vote for K9 Lucky at

2014 AHA Hero Dog Awards :: Vote K9 Boomer


Boomer is a five year old German shepherd and has been serving the citizens of Harris County since April 2011. Boomer has been utilized numerous times resulting in the arrest of numerous suspects and the seizure of large amounts of narcotics and U.S. currency. Due to Boomer’s large amount of narcotics seizures he has not only increased the quality of life for the citizens of Harris County and the Houston Area, but made the streets safer all across the United States. Below are a couple of Boomers deployments.

On January 05, 2012 Narcotic units requested a canine to a traffic stop which involved a vehicle pulling a 40 foot hay trailer. The information relayed was that the trailer had a hidden compartment but narcotic officers could not locate it. Boomer was deployed and alerted to the bottom of the trailer by a metal plate. The plate was removed and the compartment was found revealing 1729 pounds of marijuana, 10.4 kilos of cocaine, and .50 kilo of Methamphetamine. This is the case shown in the picture above.

On November 5, 2011 a patrol unit located a vehicle that was taken in a Car-Jacking at gun point. There was a short vehicle chase and the driver of the vehicle fled on foot. Boomer gave chase through an open field and was able to take the suspect to the ground. Boomer’s heroic actions resulted in the arrest of the dangerous suspect safely, and prevented any other citizens from being harmed.

Entry Category: Law Enforcement Dogs
Charity Partner: K9s4COPs
Location: Houston, Texas


You can vote for K9 Officer Boomer at

2014 AHA Hero Dog Awards :: Vote K9 Mack


Mack is a five year old German shepherd and has been serving the citizens Harris County since January 2012. In Mack’s short career he has been deployed many times resulting in the arrest of numerous suspects and the seizure of large amounts of narcotics, U.S. currency, and locating evidence. With Mack’s seizures and arrest he has made a great impact on the quality of life in Harris County and beyond.

Mack has been awarded the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Bravery award. This is just one example of Mack’s valiant efforts to make Harris County a safer place to live:

On 03-27-2013, Deputy Shaddox and his partner “Mack” were called to assist the Texas Rangers in locating and capturing escapee Britt Privatte, who had been in custody for Aggravated Robbery. The suspect had told his family that he would not return to jail and that he would shoot any law enforcement officer who attempted to arrest him.

The suspect was spotted by the surveillance team at which time he fled on foot into a heavily wooded area. K-9 Mack was deployed into the woods and was able to track and locate the suspect. The suspect refused to comply with the officers orders to surrender at which time K-9 Mack engaged the suspect and held him while he was taken into custody. During the search incident to arrest a fully loaded semi auto pistol was found in the suspect’s pants pocket.

Entry Category: Law Enforcement Dogs
Charity Partner: K9s4COPs
Location: Houston, Texas

You can vote for K9 Mack at

2014 AHA Hero Dog Awards :: Vote K9 Kota


On January 3, 2014, Kota responded to a burglary in progress call to assist officers in searching a house. K9 Kota located a suspect hiding in the upstairs crawl space and was in the process of detaining the susepct when the ceiling gave way and Kota fell approximately 8 feet to the hardwood floor below. Officers could hear Kota yelping loudly and incessantly for approximately one minute but his handler could not immediately check on him because officers were still engaged with the suspects. Another officer took control of the suspect Kota’s handler had so she could go check on Kota but when officers turned around, they saw Kota already standing right behind them. Officers were amazed to see Kota had crawled back up the stairs considering the severity of his cries and were moved by his devotion and loyalty to his handler and the other officers as well as his desire to stay in the fight.
Kota was taken to the emergency Vet where it was discovered he had a humeral Y fracture (basically he split his elbow in half and the fracture continued up the humerus) and an additional fracture further up the bone. Kota underwent a 4 hour surgery and is currently attending physical therapy in hopes of returning to full duty. (The picture was taken several hours after his surgery). The surgeon said returning to narcotics work is a realistic goal but is not optimistic about Kota’s return to full patrol capacity.

Entry Category: Law Enforcement Dogs
Charity Partner: K9s4COPs
Location: Winchester, Virginia
You can vote for K9 Kota at

2014 AHA Hero Dog Awards :: Vote K9 Chiquita


Chiquita is an Explosive Detection Canine in the United States Coast Guard, she has been serving her country for 8 years and is 10 years old. She is a Belgian Malinois and was borne in Belgium. She will retire next summer having provided protection for two Presidents and First Ladies, the Vice President, the Governor of California and thousands of American’s traveling on waterborne mass transit systems around the country.

She is trained to deploy from helicopters to conduct at sea boardings on vessels entering and departing ports of the United States.  She lives at home with handler Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist Chief Anthony Ross. She is one rank higher than her handler and is the only Senior Chief Canine currently serving in the Coast Guard’s Canine Explosive Detection Program.

Entry Category: Law Enforcement Dogs
Charity Partner: K9s4COPs
Location: SAN PEDRO, California

You can vote for K9 Chiquita at