Days before a yellow Labrador puppy was scheduled to be put down at an animal shelter in Austin, Texas, a particular trait of his stood out—which ended up saving his life.
Luke, an abandoned puppy that was less than a year old, was scheduled to be put down late in 2016. However, when staff suddenly realized that this dog has a heightened sense of smell, they had an idea that could save his life. One of the shelter staff contacted Universal K9, an agency that trains shelter dogs to be K9 officers, in order to give the puppy a second chance at life.
It just so happened that at the time, Joel Fields, a police officer in Bel-Ridge, Missouri, was looking to adopt a police dog.
“I work in a high crime, low-income area near St. Louis that is constantly seeing drug-related crimes but I didn’t want a ‘bite’ dog,” 36-year-old Fields told PEOPLE. “I wanted a ‘community’ dog that could not only sniff out drugs, but be around kids and help with programs at schools.”
Luke was matched to Fields by the volunteers at Universal K9, and so the Bel-Ridge officer went to Texas for handler training.
“As soon as they opened the door of his kennel and he saw me and started wagging his tail, I knew we’d be close,” Fields recalled. “Our first night in the hotel together, I gave 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.”
With a second chance at life, and having only worked two months for the force, Luke had cracked almost a dozen major cases. That’s a good boy!
“He has a great nose. When he detects something, he’s very focused and determined. I don’t think I could have found a better dog for this kind of work,” Fields said, adding that he rewards Luke with play time whenever he does well on the job.
As a puppy, Luke was smaller in size compared to other dogs; hence, Fields believed that this could be the reason he was abandoned at the shelter by a breeder.
“He’s not a normal-sized lab and perhaps that’s why he was rejected. But size doesn’t matter for a narcotics dog. It’s the nose that counts, and he’s more than proven he’s up to the task,” Fields said.
“I feel so grateful that his life was saved and that he was given a second chance,” he added. “He’s devoted and smart and there isn’t a ball out there that he can’t catch. It’s a real joy to have him in my life.”
It’s fantastic to see this wonderful canine enjoying life with the boys in blue. Thank goodness for that nose!