Perseverance and perfect timing: the story behind Geary County Sheriff’s newest K-9 team

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It’s a story of perseverance and perfect timing, coming together to create a perfect match. 

“I can’t imagine a day where I’d go to work without her,” Lt. Justin Stopper said about his new K-9, Nova.

But let’s take a step back, because just five months ago, Nova had no one.

Someone brought her to the Junction City/Geary County Animal Shelter, in October, in pretty rough shape.

“She had a hole on her nose, and a complete whole ring around her nose and mouth,” Vanessa Gray of the shelter said. “So we took her to the vet and they said, ‘yeah, we think she was bound.’ They didn’t know what with, but whatever it was, it started to grow over it [the skin of her nose] so it was there for a little while.”

Nova was about a year old when she was found and brought to the shelter.

“For a pure bread german shepherd that’s about a year old, should be at least 50 pounds, and she was about 26 pounds,” Gray said.

Nova had no idea her life was about to change forever when Lt. Stopper walked into the shelter in November, looking for a second K-9 for the sheriff’s department.

And after a few test runs of driving around town, a match was made.

“We wanted to see if she got car sick, or just hated riding in cars because then she probably wouldn’t be good for what we needed her for,” he said.  But that wasn’t the case, because the rest is history.

“She looks forward to coming to work with me every day, in the mornings I’ll let her out of her kennel and I’ll let her run around in the backyard for 20 or 30 minutes and when I go back my truck out of the garage, she’s waiting there just wagging her tail, waiting there, just happy to go.” 

Nova has been training to search for drugs and got her certification in narcotics detection and tracking on March 19th. 

“She’s trained that her toy smells like one of four odors, and that’s all she’s looking for, is her toy,” Lt. Stopper said describing her countless hours of training. “So she knows that when she finds that odor, that’s her toy, so she’s not really looking for drugs, she’s looking for her toy.”

Even through Nova’s scars, the team of two is excited for their bright future ahead, serving the community.

“Everyday she goes to work it’s fun, just like me, just having her every day is fun for me,” Lt. Stopper said. 

And of course, Nova is given lots of love…and belly scratches.

“She’ll come out and roll over, and you gotta rub her belly. She’ll make me do that every day before we got to work.”

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