Honoring four-legged warriors
Hendricks County residents Theresa Brandon and Kyle Schaefer help form state K-9 association
By Stephanie Dolan
It’s all about the dogs.
Photo by Rick Myers
Theresa Brandon pours into her passion for service. Her work focuses on four-legged warriors who serve alongside police officers, fire fighters, military personnel and search and rescue units.
Earlier this year, Brandon, a Plainfield resident helped to create the Central Indiana K-9 Association to help serve these working dogs through training, in retirement and after they pass.
Brandon, a former Marine sergeant who retired from the U.S. Department of Labor, acts as the board chair of the organization.
The goals of the new nonprofit include first developing a fund to help handlers pay for animals’ care in their retirement, second creating a training facility, and third building a war dog monument to honor dogs. Fundraising for the shadow fund is already underway.
Originating in Hendricks County, the Central Indiana K-9 Association’s services nine total counties including Marion and the donut counties. Across those counties, 61 agencies have K-9 units with 183 active K-9 officers and teams.
“Of these agencies they also include some state agencies such as the state police, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Indiana Department of Corrections,” Brandon said. “On the federal level, we have the military, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and the Correctional Bureau of Prisons. So, it’s pretty comprehensive from the local level to major cities to the state and federal levels.”
Brandon, 64, worked on a similar project in Texas and in early 2019 reached out the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department and Plainfield Chamber of Commerce about developing a program in Indiana.
That’s how she met Corporal Kyle Schaefer, a K-9 handler with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s office who has trained dogs for a dozen years and now acts as K-9 association vice chair. The collaborative effort started when Brandon approached Schaefer at Dogtona, a Hendrick County Humane Society fundraiser.
“I’d always wanted to form some sort of training group,” Schaefer said.
He dreams of having a site to train with dogs on a regular basis and honor the four-legged officers in their retirement and death.
“They usually meet wherever they can to do the training, which is not the most efficient, but they do what they can,” Brandon said.
In addition to monetary gifts, the Central Indiana K-9 Association. is looking for someone to donate three to five acres of land for a training center.
“We plan to build a permanent training site so that these agencies across the nine counties that we service have a nice facility to come to without searching for a site,” Brandon said. “These K-9 units will cross boundaries between towns and counties. When you do cross training, their ability to perform is much greater and shows how Avon is different from Brownsburg, which is different from Plainfield.”
Brandon and Schaefer also started a shadow fund to pay for dogs’ health care expenses after retirement and build a war dog memorial like one she helped with in Texas.
“A lot of states across the country are starting to do things like this, but Indiana doesn’t have one yet,” Brandon said.
The association’s shadow fund is already raising funds and is designed to assist with the typically high cost of medical care that is associated with retired K-9s.They have higher cost because the aggressively physical jobs make demands on their bodies that house pets don’t have, which leads to higher health costs in retirement.
“Our goal is to make sure that a K-9 has a good retirement without (financial) stress on the handler,” Brandon said.
The Shadow Fund title also symbolizes how dogs shadow handlers as they work.
“The faithful, vigilant and selfless is our motto,” Brandon said. “This refers to the dogs because one thing Kyle and I made very clear is that this is just about the dogs. It’s really important to us to highlight them and what they do and how they’re important to the community and how they’re utilized by law enforcement and the military.”
In that motto, faithful recognizes how these dogs are joined at the hip to their handlers.
“The dog stands between the officer and the bad guys, and they always put themselves in that position,” she said.
Schaefer’s dog, Deaks, does just that for him.
“Although we love them, and they’re family members, they’re also a tool,” Schaefer said. “Their job is to work and keep us safe.”
Vigilance refers to the significantly greater senses of sight and hearing than humans have.
“They enhance the policing factor,” Brandon said. “When they’re tracking, they certainly help us become much more effective.”
Selfless refers to the way the dogs put their lives on the line.
“They don’t hesitate for a moment,” Brandon said.
In Texas, she recalled a dog attacking a suspect who could have shot an officer in the back. “Because of that dog, he got to go home and be with his family,” Brandon said. “He also helped to remove someone who had injured someone else by stealing from them with a gun. We don’t want people like that on the street.”
Above all, Brandon is thankful for the people on the board and the community that they serve. The board is made up of half law enforcement personnel and half professionals, and they are seeking volunteers or donations online.
“It’s all about the dogs,” Schaefer said. “We’re here to support the dogs and make sure they’re taken care of both while they’re working and in their retirement. They give us so much that we owe it to them to do as much as can for the dogs for sure.”
Getting to know Theresa Brandon
Founder and chair of the Central Indiana K-9 Association, https://cik9.org/
Who or what inspires you?
People who are activists because they’re trying to act on the greater behalf of the community and not just for themselves.
Do you have dogs of your own?
Right now we’ve got two. They’re both rescues. Danny Boy we rescued from the wild in Texas. It took us three days to capture him. He’s a Carolina dog. The other dog is Kali Anne. She is a Jindo. She looks like a white fox, and we rescued her from a rescue group down in Texas. I strongly believe in rescuing animals and not buying them from breeders or stores. There are so many dogs out there who make wonderful pets.
What is the first dog you remember having? A dalmatian, a beautiful black and white dog. We actually named her the oddest name. My husband named her Corvette because she’s sleek and fast. You know what we call dalmations on a bad day? Damnation.
What do you enjoy reading? I tend to read a lot of spy stories, or I read books about K-9s. I love David Baldacci; his is such a compelling style of writing. That’s my escapism. I do so many things. Every night I like to read just a little bit. The other author I like is James Rollins. He has a series that’s about a K-9 and his handler.
What’s your favorite TV show? “MI-5”
Getting to know Kyle Schaefer
Occupation: Corporal K-9 handler with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s office
Who or what inspires you? I take inspiration starting each day anew and looking ahead. As long as you are open to new ideas and new people, everyday is something to look forward to.
Do you have any other dogs at home? My wife has a little terrier mutt named Toby.
What’s the first dog you can remember having? As a family when I was younger we had a dachshund. The first dog I ever had on my own was Damian, a rottweiler. I drove my mom crazy when I brought that big dog home.
What are you currently reading? A book by Kevin Gilmartin, “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement.” It talks about the emotional ups and downs for both officers and for family members.
What is your favorite TV show? “The Young and the Restless.” I was in college, and I had two roommates who watched it. I thought they were stupid, and then they got me hooked on it. I’ve watched it for 20 years now.
A photo of the War Dog Monument in Cedar Hill, Texas. The Central Indiana K-9 Association, an organization established to help serve all working dogs – military, police and fire departments, and search & rescue units – hopes to find land to build a similar memorial.
(Photo courtesy of Tiffany D. Gillen)