Law enforcement is always looking for ways to reach out to and bond with the communities they serve, and a sheriff’s deputy in New York found a new and unique way to do just that — with the story of a K-9.
K-9 Abel is a Belgian Malinois who was born in Canada in 2016 and joined the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit in 2017. He is a dual-purpose K-9 who is trained and certified in patrol tracking and advanced narcotics detection.
Abel’s partner is Deputy Jeffrey M. Froelich, who has worked with Abel since the dog first joined the department. The bond between humans and dogs is always strong, but Froelich says the bond between officer and K-9 is even stronger.
“We’re with the dogs all the time, they live with us,” he told NNY 360. “So, when I’m at work, he’s at work; when I’m at home, he’s at home. You actually spend more time with the dog than you do your own family members. The bond is hard to describe because it’s so special, you know that the dog is there to protect you and to protect the other handlers or any other police officers on your shift. When you’re with an animal that has the ability to protect you and who takes the job very seriously, the bond is incredibly strong and immeasurable.”
Froelich, who was in the Army for 20 years before retiring and joining the sheriff’s office in 2008, has always enjoyed writing in his spare time. He thought the story of Abel’s journey from playful puppy to trained K-9 could be both interesting and educational, allowing him to inform citizens about how dogs become K-9s. So, he decided to write about that journey, and it became a children’s book told from Abel’s perspective called I Am Abel.
The story follows Abel as he is selected by Froelich at the sheriff’s office and goes through training to become a certified K-9. To help kids understand it, Froelich paralleled Abel’s journey with what they go through in school. Abel had homework and needed to consistently practice certain things, just like kids do.
“It was fairly easy to write because it was just written from personal experience, I live K-9 every day,” Froelich said. “From start to finish, I think it took me just a little over two hours one night on the computer. The difficult part, or the part that I didn’t know and needed to understand, was the whole publishing process.”
After he finished writing the book, Froelich contacted some local teachers he knew to see if it might be something they would read to their kids during class. He got positive feedback from the teachers, so he submitted the manuscript to nine different publishers. He said all nine wanted to publish the book.
He decided to go with Dorrance Publishing Company, a Pittsburgh-based self-publishing company that has been in business since 1920. Froelich said that if they’ve been in business for 100 years, they must know what they’re doing.
The company guided him through the process of finishing the book, from working with an editing team to designing the cover to checking everything with their legal department. After the book was done and was ready for release, the marketing team also sent postcards to about 1,000 libraries, bookstores and schools in the area announcing the release.
Froelich decided that proceeds from the book would go to Protecting K-9 Heroes, a nonprofit that provides free protective vests and K-9 first-aid kits to handlers and their dogs across America. The organization provided Abel with a vest and first-aid kit, so Froelich viewed this as his chance to give back.
“Abel wears his vest every opportunity that we can; there have been instances where we’ve gone to calls where we knew that there was a weapon involved,” he said. “If I’m going to that type of call, he suits up. If we know that there’s a situation that warrants it, absolutely the vest goes on.”
I Am Abel is now being sold at several retailers. After taking approximately eight months to go from the original idea to a published book, it launched on October 22. Froelich reached out to friends, family members and professional contacts to let them know about the book release.
One of those professional contacts was a representative from the North Country Kennel Club, which provided the initial funding to buy Abel for the county. That representative was the first to inform Froelich that the book was also available worldwide on Amazon.
“I had no idea,” Froelich said. “That’s when it really hit me, this is a lot bigger than I thought it was gonna be, and it just kind of spiraled from there.”
The book’s publisher informed Froelich that its sales tracking shows the book has been sold across the world. A first-grade teacher in Australia bought the book for their class.
“That’s when it became kind of really exciting, when you see something that you did, something that you created, and it’s on sale on Amazon the world over,” Froelich said.
When he was first working on the book, Froelich was hesitant to tell people about it because he had no idea if it would be successful. Now that the book is out, it’s being bought by people around the world and he’s receiving positive feedback, he realizes people are truly enjoying it. And he considers that success in and of itself.
“It was never about the money for me, never about the fame of being a writer, I did it for fun,” Froelich said. “When it was completed, I thought it would be a good idea to maybe raise some money for an organization that does everything that they can to make sure that K-9 handlers and their partners have protective gear so when they go out, they can be safe.
“Every time a K-9 handler gets another first-aid kit or gets a protective vest, they’re possibly giving that dog team the ability to save that dog’s life and maybe save the handler’s life as well … it didn’t really matter to me whether I made $100 profit or I made $10,000 profit. I didn’t care. For me, it has been and always will be all about the dogs.”
I Am Abel is available on Amazon or at bookstore.dorrancepublishing.com.
As seen in the December 2020 issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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