The Owego P.D. in New York recently added its newest officer, a K-9 named Maggie. That might not seem particularly unique, but Maggie’s journey to that moment definitely is.
Maggie — who is a pit bull and Belgian Malinois mix — started out as a stray dog. And she couldn’t seem to find a forever home.
“She was supposed to go with someone who had a paid kennel for her, and she went in that paid kennel for a little while,” Owego P.D. K-9 handler Andrew Pike told WENY News. “The owner never picked her up, so she was sent back to the shelter.”
She was then scheduled for adoption a second time, but that family left her behind as well. She bounced from shelter to shelter, but with no more luck. That is, until the Southern Tier K-9 Association took notice of her.
“They went and evaluated her and thought she had what it took to be a police K-9,” Pike said. “So, they took her, trained her for a few months and passed her on to me.”
The cost to train and outfit a new K-9 officer and their partner is usually expensive. It’s generally around $10,000 to train the animal and an additional $6,000 to modify a patrol car to accommodate it. However, this time, the Southern Tier K-9 Association’s Homeless to Hero program helped pay for everything, allowing Maggie to get the training she needed without breaking the bank of the Owego P.D.
Maggie is now fully trained in narcotics detection and tracking. However, before she can be sent out on her first official call, she needs to undergo a bit more training. As they get ready for that first call, Pike does practice runs with her a few times a day.
“I’ll get her out of the car and kind of get her a little bit excited to go find what she’s supposed to find, and sometimes she’ll go on autopilot and she’ll just search the car no problem,” he said. “Sometimes, I do have to sort of direct her to search certain areas. and then when she gets a hit on the odor, she’s a passive alert dog, so she’ll sit there.”
As a reward for a job well done, Maggie gets to play a game of tug-of-war with her partner. However, Pike knows her excitement is less about the toy and more about getting to play with him.
“She’s not real big on the toy, it’s more just the interaction with me,” he said. “I’ve got a few different tug toys and it’s just that fight and play with me that she likes.”
Maggie’s desire to play is just one indication of her close bond with Pike, and he said that bond formed very quickly.
“She’ll be laying down and I make a little movement and she’s like, ‘Alright, are we going to do something? Let’s go.’ She’s just very loving towards me and very affectionate,” he said. “The bond is there already, and it happened quick.”
“She’s almost connected at my hip,” Pike told WBNG News. “I went out to the garage the other day from the house, and my family said she was standing at the glass door the whole time watching, waiting, waiting for me to come back.”
That love and support goes both ways. Pike acknowledged that being in charge of Maggie has added some new responsibility to his life, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You’ve got a partner that’s with you 24/7, man’s best friend,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want that?”