- Associated Press - Saturday, December 31, 2016

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - Rousey has the kind of rags-to-riches story that was made for television.

Early this year, the German shepherd, once a bony stray in the streets of Pennsylvania and now a hard-working police dog in Rocky Mount, will have her story highlighted on the small screen.

Rousey showed off her narcotics detection skills in the filming of “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan’s new show, “Dog Nation,” set to premiere in February on Nat Geo Wild. Rousey has a small role in the episode that features Throw Away Dogs Project, a nonprofit based just outside Philadelphia that rescues potential police K-9s. The premise of “Dog Nation” is to help organizations like Throw Away Dogs that are helping dogs.

Rousey came to the organization’s founder, Carol Skaziak, skin and bones. She named the dog Rousey, after former mixed-martial-arts champion Ronda Rousey, and began rehabilitation. Rousey eventually got paired up with Officer Chris Shelton at the Rocky Mount Police Department.

“We have a rock star in Rousey, who can do all the things she can do,” Shelton said. “And with Throw Away Dogs, it’s not just helping the dog, but helping the agencies as well. These dogs are not just becoming pets. They’re serving a genuine purpose.”

Throw Away Dogs finds dogs in shelters and rescues and donates them to police departments in need. Skaziak, who is married to a Philadelphia police traffic officer, came up with the idea for the organization in 2013. When she did public relations work for an animal boarding facility in Philadelphia, she noticed that people sometimes left their dogs behind - essentially throwing them away.

The nonprofit has placed more than a dozen dogs, including three in Southwest Virginia.

Roanoke County Officer Bill Tars got Kayos (pronounced like “chaos” to fit his vigorous personality) through the organization early this year. Kayos and Rousey graduated from K-9 school together. Skaziak traveled to Roanoke from Pennsylvania to tearfully congratulate the dogs and their handlers.

“Kayos is very reliable and a great partner,” Tars said. “He’s been busy, and he loves going to work.”

Since Tars got Kayos, he’s become even more devoted to the Throw Away Dogs Project, overseeing a satellite location for the organization in Roanoke County. He manages police department applications for dogs and placing dogs with foster families who help the animals with socialization and behavioral skills.

This month, a 5-year-old German shepherd named Titan joined the Roanoke County police ranks. A K-9 handler for Massachusetts State Police said the dog was set to retire, but he felt Titan would benefit from working more. So he asked Throw Away Dogs to match him with a new police department, and it just so happened that Roanoke County police were retiring a dog in November.

Officer Matt Engle now has Titan, who can do patrol and narcotics work and evidence searches. He’s also a friendly dog, making him a good fit for public relations work.

“This is something I’d always wanted to do,” Engle said. “My father was a police officer, and his best friend was a handler.”

Tars has received an outpouring of support from the region, from people offering to foster dogs to helping with fundraising. He hopes to receive additional support in the new year, especially with the organization featured on Dog Nation.

“It’s amazing what we can do for these animals,” Tars said.


Information from: The Roanoke Times, https://www.roanoke.com

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