After being abandoned as a puppy last year, a yellow Labrador named Luke was scheduled to be put down.
Luke was unusually small for his age and breed, and the shelter he was left at simply didn't have room for him. He was days away from euthanasia, but shelter staff members couldn't bear the thought of ending the puppy's life. He was sweet and playful, but there was one characteristic that stood out. He seemed to have a nose for sniffing out trouble.
At only a few months old, shelter staff members thought the young Lab could grow up to be a successful police dog. He needed training and the right handler, but they contacted Universal K9 to see what could be done.
Universal K9 is a program that pulls rescue dogs out of shelters and trains them for police work. They serve a duel purpose to provide police departments with affordable working dogs and to save rescue dogs with nowhere else to go.
Universal K9 agreed that Luke had great potential. They enrolled him in training, and he surpassed everyone's expectations. It was soon clear that Luke possessed a natural talent for narcotic detection, and it didn't take long to find him a professional placement.
While Luke was in training, police officer Joel Fields was working in a small town called Bel-Ridge, Missouri. Located just outside of St. Louis, his department continuously encounters drug-related crimes, but they were unequipped to handle them. It was 20 years since they last employed the services of a detection dog, and Fields knew it was time to end that streak.
After contacting Universal K9, Officer Fields was matched with Luke. He flew to Texas to be introduced to his new partner and to learn how to be his handler. He told People:
"As son as they opened the door of his kennel and he saw me and started wagging his tail, I knew we'd be close. Our first night in the hotel together, I game him a bath and took him out for a walk and we formed a unique bond. I couldn't wait to put him to work."
The former rescue dog has only been on the job for two months, but he's already played a significant role in a number of important drug busts--nearly a dozen in total. Fields describes his canine partner as being focused and determined on the job, sniffing out a number of different drugs including marijuana and heroin.
When he's not hard at work, Luke is at home with his family. He loves to play with Fields' other two dogs and his seven-year-old son. He's come a long way since his days waiting to be euthanized at the shelter. Fields said,
"I feel so grateful that his life was saved and that he was given a second chance. He's devoted and smart and there isn't a ball out there that he can't catch. Its a real joy to have him in my life."
All images via: Facebook/Bel-Ridge Police
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