‘Unwanted’ shelter dog becomes police department’s first K-9 officer in decades

By | January 31, 2023

After over four decades, the Lower Southampton Township Pennsylvania Police Department has a new K-9.

Before landing his new role, Arrow the Belgian Malinois had lived at the Burlington County Animal Shelter for almost eight months. Back then, the likelihood of the dog finding a forever family was very low.

Arrow, who came to the shelter in February 2020 as a puppy, had been returned twice since early last year. One would-be adopter said he didn’t get along with the family’s other pet, while the other said Arrow was overprotective of his wife.

But Deb Bucci, an animal attendant at the shelter, thinks there might be another reason.

“Their brains, especially in the Malinois, are continuous, and when they are locked in the kennel they go crazy,” she said.

Deb saw potential in Arrow, and she worked with him every chance she got.

Months passed, and the shelter hasn’t received any new adoption applications for Arrow. So, Deb took to Facebook and posted about him on the platform as one final attempt to find him a home.

Luckily, someone answered the call—Angela Connor, the co-founder and chief financial officer of the Rescue 22 Foundation, a nonprofit that trains dogs to assist disabled veterans.

Although Angela knew that it was very unlikely for Arrow to qualify as a service dog, she discovered the dog’s strengths when she met him.

“I came in and evaluated Arrow and decided that a lot of the behavior that most people would find challenging was actually exactly the behavior we’re looking for to develop into police work,” she said.

The dog was intelligent, confident, and was eager to please his human. Arrow also liked to work for food and toys. Plus, he’s super energetic. Based on these qualities, Angela thought he would be a perfect police dog.

Angela and Rescue 22 got Arrow last summer and worked with him for three months. Then, in partnership with the Philadelphia Police K-9 Training Unit, Angela was able to find him more than just a job; she also found him a forever home.

Lower Southampton Patrolman Kyle Heasley began working with Arrow full-time in September. He has been trained both as a patrol dog and a drug scent dog.

“Everybody in the community is very supportive and very happy that we now have a police dog,” Officer Heasley said. “The department’s happy, so are all the fellow officers. He’s been a great addition to the department.”

Arrow has also been a great addition to his household. He knows when to be a family dog and when to be a police dog, which is one of the many things that his handler loves about him. Arrow is also great with the family’s other dog.

“Arrow is with me 24/7. We’re best buds; we’re partners; and we do everything together,” Officer Heasley said.

Recently, Arrow and Officer Heasley returned to the shelter for the first time since he was rescued to thank the people who paved the way for him to become a K-9.

Deb was thrilled to see Arrow again and gifted him with a bag full of goodies.

“I want to grab him and hug him, but I know I can’t. He is no longer my dog,” she said.

Burlington County Animal Shelter Director Ericka Haines said that the shelter is working to better assess dogs and their specific needs to reduce the number of failed adoptions.

“We analyze and look at what their reactions are (to other dogs and shelter staff) so that we can better gauge where the next home should be for that dog,” she said. “Unfortunately, a lot of dogs that come to shelters do need special fits. So that’s why we take the time to make sure that we do that.”

Deb hopes that Arrow’s story will inspire others to consider adopting a cat or dog from the shelter because they, too, deserve a happy ending like him.

Congratulations to Arrow and the Lower Southampton Township Pennsylvania Police Department for this exciting partnership!

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