Select dogs are being taken out of the shelter and turned into K-9s for the police department in a program Miami-Dade County is calling a win all around.
A lab named Amanda is spreading holiday cheer in the community alongside Miami-Dade Officer Manny Rodriguez after being rescued from life in the shelter.
“This is my K-9 partner Amanda. She’s a police therapy dog,” Officer Rodriguez said to a kid playing in the Doral park.
Amanda is one of the first dogs in a program designed by former Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman to take dogs who are in the shelter and turn them into police K-9s.
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“This has definitely been one of the most rewarding things I have done with the department," said Rodriguez.
Yes, Amanda goes to schools and to senior facilities, but one of her most important jobs is supporting Miami-Dade police officers who are going through traumatic situations. Earlier this year, officers have been shot and lives have been lost.
“For me personally, it’s been amazing," said Rodriguez. "If I’m going through something, I am able to lean on her. Recently, we’ve had a lot of officers that have either been hurt or killed in the line of duty, and that’s something very difficult for all of us to deal with."
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Amanda’s name has a tremendous amount of meaning inside the Miami-Dade County Police Department. She is named after officer Amanda Haworth, who was killed in the line of duty just over a decade ago.
“She’s comfort. She’s no judgment, you know. You go to an animal and it's unconditional love, and that’s what she gives out to the department, and that’s what she gives out to the community," Rodriguez told NBC 6.
"When an officer is going through something traumatic, all she does is walk into the room and you see these big burly officers they become kids again," he said. "They’re on the floor rolling around with her as if they were children, and for that time they completely forget about anything that’s going on."
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the shelter-to-service K-9 program is "a creative win-win kind of solution."
Levine Cava says the dogs have been there in the worst of times.
"We have used these dogs for care and comfort not only to the community at large but to the families of those who have been affected by tragedy," she said. "When our own officers are harmed in the line of duty, these dogs have been a great source of comfort. I’ve seen them embraced. I’ve seen people break down crying.”
Amanda is a year and four months old, and it took her about six months to get trained to be able to go out and do this kind of work in our community.
Right now, the department has three other K-9s like her, and hopefully, another one is also on the way.
Amanda’s message tonight is to not forget about her friends at the shelter.
You can dial 3-1-1 or go to MiamiDade.gov/animals to inquire about a furry addition to your family.