HPD’s K9s a huge hit with Houston Kennel Club

If you would like to donate to ATO’s Retired K9 Fund, please visit AssistTheOfficer.com today!

Once upon a time in 2022 two women with dogs met. Informally, they discussed their canine connection with emphasis on what one of them termed “the working dogs.”

She referred to HPD’s K9 officers and summed up her feelings with a great statement of support:

“I appreciate what these dogs bring to the table that humans can’t, just can’t. I also appreciate the people who handle them.”

Marked Contrasts

Kristin Uhlin, Tim Whitaker, & Billye Tezel

Billye Tezel hails from “the world of showing dogs.” When she met Kristin Uhlin, who hails from the world of training HPD’s Narcotics K9s. One might say there’s quite a contrast between brushing up dogs and showing them at kennel club affairs and teaching a “working dog” to help take down a drug dealer on the streets of Houston.

This is the story of Tezel getting together with Uhlin, a fortuitous meeting that has strengthened community ties and significantly promoted Assist the Officer’s Retire K9 Fund.

To suggest that Tezel has an undying love for dogs would be the understatement of the dry summer, just like it would be if you said it about Uhlin. Our story begins with dog lover Tezel.

It was February 2002 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The date tells you that it was a time when New York – and the rest of America – was still stunned and reeling from the 911 attack. Tezel was part of a black-tie “top dog” event sponsored by Purina, the dog food company. Dogs suddenly filled the room.

“The dogs were filing in rows between tables to surround the ballroom,” Tezel recalled. “Purina officials showed video of NYPD’s K9 officers and their handlers during 911”, a depiction Tezel called “a gut-punch to watch.”

Appearing at her table was an NYPD K9 handler with his German Shepherd puppy who captivated Tezel – shepherds are her favorite breed. The handler grew grim when he explained to her that the roomful of dogs represented the number the department lost in 911.

The experience stayed with the dog lover who was an enthusiastic role player in the subculture of show dogs, kennel clubs and international competitions.

Referring to this group of fellow dog lovers, she asked herself, “What are we doing for the working dog?”

This year, opportunity knocked when a mutual friend introduced the show dog fancier to the narc dog trainer. Tezel met Uhlin. She will tell you the K9 world has been better ever since and will surely continue to be.

“I asked her,” Tezel said, “What’s missing?”

“All the vet bills are covered by the city budget,” Uhlin responded. “But there is nothing to cover the vet bills for our retired K9 officers.”

Impressive Demonstrations

LifeFlight Demo

In her words, Tezel “ran this up the flagpole.” That flag has been flying with great gusto ever since.

Uhlin and an HPD K9 crew were invited to Houston’s World Series of Dog Show held at the NRG Arena July 21-24.

They were a key part of the education phase of the show, which featured 14,000 show dogs and two HPD “working dogs.”

Uhlin said, “They asked us to participate in some demonstrations. We had LifeFlight there to demonstrate CPR, wound packing, and assessing a canine’s injury.”

The audience of about 400 dog lovers were especially fascinated by the K9 crew’s dog mannequin used for the demonstrations.

“The dog simulator looks like a real dog,” Uhlin explained. “It’s a fake dog. A lot of the people thought it was real and dead. We had to tell people no, these are mannequin dogs we use for the class.”

And how about a demonstration of the real work an HPD K9 does on streets and in the alleys where drug dealers thrive?

“Me and my guys from Narcotics did a narc demo on the last day.”

There is ample proof that the horde of dog lovers present were duly impressed by HPD’s K9 officers and their handlers.

Billye Tezel & Mary Crawford

Let Tezel tell you:

She hit up Tom Pincus, president of the Houston Kennel Club, and Mary Crawford of the local Brittany Club, and it didn’t take much of a hit to dog these leaders into action.

“They had watched them (HPD K9s) in action in the demonstrations and said it’s time to get them money. Mary and the Brittany Club members called an emergency meeting.”  She asked for $1,500 and they got $2,000!

“That’s how excited people were to have them there.”

“They were the celebrity guests, there was no question about it. LifeFlight was as well. People had no idea that LifeFlight was helping injured dogs. This was a very specialized audience. They love dogs. Not everybody gets exposed to the extent that they work together.”

By the way, Pincus and the kennel club kicked in another $2,500.

Uhlin laughed as she recalled a kennel club member asking her, “Where’s your jar?” referring to the container used to collect contributions for a cause at an event like the World Series at NRG Arena. “We ended up using a dog dish,” the veteran K9 trainer explained. “We took in about $800 cash and many made online donations.”

An impressive ‘Win-Win’

Uhlin’s K9, Airus

Uhlin identified the others present for the entire run of the dog show: K9 personnel Sgt. Mike Perales and Officers Tim Snell and Gabe Ortiz. “The LifeFlight guys” were George Tarver, Aaron Young and Kristi Graham.  Tim Whitaker, ATO Chair and HPOU’s 2nd VP, was also there to thank everyone for their support.

And let’s certainly not forget the two main stars of the show – K9 Officers Airus and Lottie.

Uhlin said all the generous donations will be part of ATO’s Retired K9 Fund used to pay the annual vet bills for retired HPD K9 officers “so that the handler doesn’t have to pay them” as well as their cremation after service.

Tezel stressed that the HPD showing at the event provoked a deeper pride that members of the Houston Kennel Club now have for the police officers – both humans and K9 – who serve them so ably.

“Every police officer there just exuded confidence,” Tezel pointed out. “The narc dogs there were allowed to have their pictures taken with the public. It was really, really a win-win.”