With a serious head wound and no owner in sight, Kiah the pit bull was found in a parking lot and brought to an animal shelter in Kirby, Texas.
At the same time, Brad Croft was searching for the perfect dog to turn into a working K9. Croft is the operations director for UniversalK9, an organization that affordably trains dogs to become successful members of police K9 units.
Unlike other training organizations, UniversalK9 accepts dogs of all breeds with all kinds of histories. They frequently work with rescues, and Kiah quickly caught Croft's attention.
Despite the horrific head wound, Kiah was strong-looking and exuded confidence. Croft was told that the dog had been hit on the head with a hammer and was still recovering. He told CBS News,
"From what I saw, I just couldn't believe that she survived it, but she did."
He took her miraculous recovery as a sign that she was meant to do something big with her life. When looking for potential K9s, Croft pays attention to a few key characteristics. At the top of that list is confidence. The dogs need to be able to do their job without being distracted, and they can't hesitate or be fearful.
Croft also looks for dogs with curious personalities that want to learn.
Kiah, who was full of energy and oblivious to the excitement and frenzy of the animal shelter, checked off all the boxes. Upon her recovery, she was enrolled in Universal K9's eight-week training program. She had the right personality, but her training didn't start exactly as planned.
What happened to Kiah before she was found in that parking lot will always be a mystery, but it became clear that no one had ever taken the time to train her before. She didn't understand what she was supposed to do, and at first, training was difficult. But it didn't take long for the pit bull to catch on. Once she realized what was expected of her, she learned commands at an amazing rate.
As her training progressed, she started to stand out among the other dogs in the program. Croft said:
"If we were to have some kind of contest, she would outwork the other dogs all days of the week. This dog is crazy good."
Kiah graduated at the top of her class and now two years later, she works with her partner, Officer Justin Bruzgul, as a narcotics and missing persons detection dog for the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department.
According to Croft, some agencies are resistant to working pit bulls because of generalized stereotypes that the dogs are dangerous. Kiah's job is most often reserved for purebred German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, or Labrador Retrievers. But it didn't take long for the 85-pound pit bull to shatter that glass ceiling.
She became the first working pit bull in the state of New York, and later this week, she will be awarded the ASPCA Public Service Award. The award recognizes Kiah's heroism on duty as well as the special bond she's formed with her partner and adoptive family.
When not on duty, the working pit bull lives with her partner and his two other dogs. She's a silly, fun-loving part of their family, but when it's time to head to work, she's living proof that rescue dogs are capable of great things. As the first of her kind, she's opened the door to other working pit bulls. All they need is a chance.
All photos via Facebook/CPPD K9 Kiah
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