Ladies! I'm so excited to introduce you to K9 Lulu. 💙🖤
K9 Lulu is an electronic detection police dog. Her job is to find digital media – thumb drives, SD cards, cell phones, laptops, etc – and she primarily works child pornography investigations. She also doubles as a comfort dog for kids who have been victimized by sexual trauma. She’s there to encourage them as they navigate the difficulties of the justice system whether it be through some loving or by generating some laughs. Incredible, right?? I have had the honor of being K9 Lulu’s partner since March. And through her, God has shown me that our stories are so much more than we could’ve ever planned.
When I was a young Lieutenant, I would see the Military Working Dogs (MWD) and stare with a longing. Although I loved my job working investigations, I always thought being a MWD handler was by far the coolest job in the military (still do). They get to work and train with a dog who is trained to do one of two things – find bombs or find drugs…how cool is that?!?
It was always a fleeting thought though. There are no Air Force officer dogs handlers…it was literally the most impossible dream I’ve ever had. As I’d stare at them, I’d go down this rabbit hole of thoughts we females jump down through so easily: it’d be cool to handle one of the pups, but there was that whole running-into-a-building-that-might-have-a-bomb-in-it (I’ll do it if I need to, but I’m not such an adrenaline junkie that I actually want to). And although yes, drugs are awful and a scourge on society, it’s not exactly my favorite crime to investigate. (Y’all know I’m much more passionate about preventing people from being physically violated, and I trust there are people out there just as hardcore about taking on the drug crisis as I am about hunting rapists.) Plus, they’re not exactly the friendliest dogs, because they have to be naturally aggressive to do their jobs effectively.
Let’s not forget the simple fact that I’d also never had a dog before. We never had one growing up, and my 12+ hour duty days and constantly moving across the globe made the idea of owning a pet even more of an impossibility. And so my day dreams always left me believing they were some random fantasies, never to become reality…
…until I went to an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) conference last year. I work part time for the Hawaii ICAC Task Force (another “only Jesus” story that I’ll tell another time). I had worked ICAC cases about ten years ago and was excited to back amongst my people, as ICAC investigators are some of the most humble and selfless law enforcement officers I’ve ever met. Walking around the convention center, I started noticing these dogs and realized this new electronic detection capability had only existed a few years (since the Jared Fogel aka “Subway spokesman” child porn investigation). There’s K9 URL (pronounced “Earl”), K9 Siri, K9 Alexa…you get it. 😉 Anyway, I fell in love with these beautiful Labradors…and BONUS...they were also meant to show love to the kiddos. They were the intersection of all my professional dreams: justice seeker and protector of kids encouraging people to find their courage and voice when they feel they have none; giver of unconditional love.
Every time I’d see one, they’d stare straight at me. I swear it was like they knew I was meant to be a handler. At the time, the idea that I could get one of these dogs briefly flitted across my mind, and I just as quickly dismissed it. There was no way my agency would pay for one of these dogs much less let me – a part timer – handle it.
On the industry floor where vendors sold their wares to the police departments, my boss and I rounded a corner on our second day and came face-to-face with Todd Jordan – the man who basically invented these dogs. In a matter of minutes, I’d not only learned more about the capability, but it turned out the dogs were free to law enforcement agencies. A number of non-profits saw the value of these dogs and volunteered to pay for all the costs, since they knew many police departments were strapped for cash. Like a little girl staring at a pony, the words, “Can we get please get one?” tumbled out of my mouth, and my boss – just as quickly and to my utter amazement – agreed.
K9 Lulu has her own Jesus-sized story. She was originally bred to be a service dog and was being trained at the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN), an organization that trains and places assistance dogs with individuals with disabilities and provides foundational life skills to inmates through their experience as trainers. K9 Lulu and her trainer spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours training her on over 50 commands. I’m gonna keep it real – that girl does more chores than I do. She can pick items up and put them away, closes drawers, turns lights on and off. Some electronic detection K9s may or may not know how to open a fridge and fetch a beer…I dunno it’s something I heard. *smirk* But they’re really incredible.
Unfortunately, K9 Lulu failed out of ICAN training. Not gonna lie, I was really hoping there was some epic reason like with Service Dog Ryker. But it turned out, sometimes she just couldn’t stop barking at other dogs. I can only imagine the disappointment ICAN and her trainer felt after they’d all worked so hard and for so long (probably close to a year and a half) to train her for such an important task.
But God had other plans.
Trainer Todd came in one day looking for new electronic detection candidates. It turns out that ICAN dogs were perfect for ICAC units: they were already basically trained as service dogs, had amazing noses, and were always hungry (they are food-reward dogs meaning they only get fed when they find devices). Todd adopted K9 Lulu – his 23rd such dog – and got to work for 8+ months. He would send me the occasional update. K9 Lulu was learning not only to find these electronics, but she was also trained to point her nose at the exact spot where the device was and hold it until a photographer took a photo for evidence. We learned other interesting tidbits -- like K9 Lulu hates the snow…it’s almost like she was made for tropical weather. *wink*
“Lulu” in Hawaiian actually means “calm, peace, shelter, protection, shield…to gather together as objects.” Most people don’t know that – although part of the United States – Hawaii has some of the worst sex trafficking issues in the country. It’s a major tourism hub, and local law enforcement and government are often viewed as being completely corrupt as evidenced by the current ongoing trial of the former Honolulu Police Department Chief and former Deputy Honolulu Prosecutor. In just a few short months, K9 Lulu has accomplished so much more to build partnerships and bring hope to the community than I ever could have. It’s amazing how quickly old tensions melt away when a pup presents an embittered counterpart with a toy to play tug with.
Not only has she been critical to bringing hope and joy to our little island chain, but this new partner of mine has taught me more about trust than I could’ve ever imagined. During training, she would “indicate” (or sit) whenever she found digital media. There were several occasions where I’d search the area she reported but couldn’t find anything. It led me to question her abilities, and I’d give the commands to search again. After several indications, she would impatiently dig deep into the area and pull out a micro-SD card that I had missed and literally drop it at my feet. As if to say, “Here you go, moron…do I have to do your job too??” (She’s snarky, just like her mama.) Just like any other relationship, it takes time, practice, and vulnerability. The truth is that I’m not training her, she’s training me and opening up places in my heart I never knew existed.
Young Lieutenant Alani could not have imagined those fleeting thoughts actually meant something. I blew them off so many times thinking it was impossible. I’ll even admit it took some courage to move through the process to actually get her. The thought of “you’re crazy if you think this is going to happen” frequently crossed my mind, and it almost stopped me from even putting an application in. God presented the opportunity, but I was the one who had to choose to receive it. God weaved our stories together, and He knew they’d be that way when he created the universe. I know K9 Lulu’s ICAN family (and maybe even K9 Lulu – who knows?) was so disappointed when she flunked out of service dog school. But that “failure” was designed to prepare her for a different mission. I know they never imagined she’d end up in Hawaii protecting kids. I know she never thought she’d get out of her own personal snowy hell in Indiana. Now she always curiously smells the sweet air when we walk past a plumeria tree, devours her new post-search warrant tradition/treat of a Spam musubi, and demands her own towel when we go to the beach.
Almost as if she was meant to be here.
What dreams do you have that you think seem impossible? You know – that dream you’ve had since you were a little kid…that desire that seems so random. God didn’t weave that into your being for no reason. But trust that – even if you don’t understand “why” – He will reveal it to you at the right time and that the way He uses that desire will absolutely blow you away.
What “failure” have you experienced that makes you question God’s goodness and plan for your life? God does not view these events as failures. In fact, He knows your own Promised Land is just around the corner. Do not lose faith…keep your feet moving, and keep trusting Him!
What dream is God offering you that you’re hesitating to receive? What is it that’s stopping you from accepting this blessing? Yes, God makes all things possible, but He also requires us to walk (ie: take ACTIVE steps) in faith.
And as always, hit me up if you need some prayer and encouragement. Happy Aloha Friday, y’all!
PS: follow K9 Lulu’s adventures on Instagram @k9.lulu
Todd is always looking to place trained electronic detection K9s at any law enforcement agency which might need one (they also can work counterterrorism and white collar crimes cases). For more information go to: http://www.electronicdetectionk9.com/