Texas A&M University Police Officer Eric Walker with his K-9 partner, a German Shepherd named Tyson
By Elena Watts, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications
As Christmas approached in 2009, Houstonians tuned in to a heart-wrenching newscast about a robbery-gone-awry that left a Czech German Shepherd named Blek dead and his partner, Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Ted Dahlin, devastated. Among countless viewers, one woman, Kristi Schiller, a Houston philanthropist, leapt into action, and as a result, peace officers and communities across the nation became safer and more secure. She founded K9s4COPs, a non-profit organization that has helped the Texas A&M University Police Department (UPD) as well as numerous other law enforcement agencies and schools acquire highly skilled police dogs.
Early last year, Jackie, a Belgian Malinois, and Tyson, a German Shepherd, both 2 years old, became the first police dogs ever to join the Texas A&M UPD. They were donated by K9s4COPs, 12th Man Foundation Board Trustee and Aggie John D. Schiller, also Kristi Schiller’s husband, and Texas A&M Regent Tony Buzbee. Jackie, Tyson and their handlers were trained extensively to detect explosives at university and community events and to assist the College Station Bomb Squad in potentially dangerous situations.
“My husband is involved heavily with his university,” Kristi Schiller said. “So this particular placement is very dear to our hearts.”
Schiller’s journey to provide police dogs for peace officers began with her desire to be a force for positive change in the world. After Thanksgiving in 2009, she became disenchanted with video clips of Black Friday shopping brawls repeatedly broadcast by national news stations. A couple of days before Christmas, she told her husband that she wanted to impart the true meaning of Christmas to their daughter, Sinclair, who was 3 years old at the time.
“I wanted everyone in the family to write me a letter or pay it forward to someone else in need,” she said. “I wanted to make a significant change for good, but I was not sure how it was going to come to fruition—when I saw a sure sign.”
As Schiller prepared dinner and watched the nightly news, she was saddened by Deputy Dahlin’s recollection of the distressing events that ended the life of his beloved best friend and partner, Blek. Blek had chased robbery suspects into a wooded area and, unable to hear his handler’s return commands over the noise of helicopters hovering overhead, had been strangled by one of them. Schiller told her husband that she wanted to donate another police dog anonymously to Deputy Dahlin for Christmas.
She never dreamed it would be enormously difficult.