Remembering a dog named ‘Kat’
A dog is man’s best friend. Offering a brand of unconditional love unmatched by humans, dogs often go above and beyond to please their masters. The same is true of K-9 units who strive to please their police counterparts day in and day out.
Although police officers are able to serve the community on their own, the inclusion of a K-9 unit in a police department greatly improves the department’s ability to enforce local, state and federal laws. For instance, K-9 units use highly trained dogs to sniff out illegal substances or to locate missing persons. The job description for a K-9 unit officer accommodates this use of dogs, but also follows the description for a general police officer.
Four years ago, Tyler County welcomed the first K-9 unit to the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office. Kat, a German Shepherd, was purchased with drug seizure money, trained in narcotics detection by Ultimate Working Dogs in St. Albans, W.Va., and certified to “sniff” out drugs such as Heroin, Marijuana, Cocaine, and Meth-amphetamine. She was also good at tracking.
In May 2007, when K-9 Kat came aboard at 10-months-old, she was the youngest K-9 certified in the State of West Virginia, a fact her handler Cpl. Shannon Huffman is proud to point out.
Tracy Landis, who certified Cpl. Huffman and Kat, recalled the training process. “I purchased Kat to be my personal dog,” she said. “But when Shannon’s first dog failed out, I let Kat go home with him for the weekend. They bonded instantly. Once I saw them together, I knew I had made the right decision.”
“Shannon was so patient with her during training, and because of their bond Kat finished the training program in three weeks. They were a perfect match.”
Sadly, on June 8 a few months shy of her fifth birthday, Kat succumbed to an electrolyte imbalance, and passed away.
“She was a great dog,” commented Huffman. “One of the best dogs I’ve ever owned, personal and departmental.”
Kat aimed to please, locating drugs on several occasions, including a Heroin bust which netted a large stash of stamps. “She was responsible for numerous busts. People were less likely to press the issue when it came to a search, because Kat was there. They would hand over the drugs,” Huffman stated.
Kat was an asset to law enforcement. “She was a great asset to the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office,” remarked Sheriff Bob Kendle. “She was a member of our department and she was treated as if she were a deputy. She will be missed!”
To Huffman, losing Kat was like losing a member of his family. “She was a part of my family,” Huffman said. “I worked eight to 10 hours per day with Kat, then I took her home.” Huffman added that his children are taking Kat’s death the hardest. “She used to play with them in the yard. They’ve grown up with Kat around.”
Now, all that’s left are the memories of Kat’s service to the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, the legacy of her dedication and love for her handler, and her collar and badge which hang on a nail in Huffman’s office.
Kat was buried on the farm where she lived with Huffman and his family.
It has been said that “dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” The same is true for K-9s like Kat, who spend their days patrolling with their police counterparts and their nights with the family.