Just hours away from her death, Flash received an opportunity to fulfill a purpose she was destined for: to be a K-9 Hero. K-9 Flash’s story is a beautiful one of second chances, resilience and partnership. She has rendered a profound impact in her service as a Police K-9 and now, with the Project K-9 Hero foundation, where she represents a movement that cares for retired K-9 Heroes across the nation. She was recently nominated as the 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Awards Law Enforcement Dog of the Year. You can vote for her to win here!
“Save a dog’s life, and they will change yours forever,” is Project K-9 Hero Founder and CEO Jason Johnson’s mantra. After finding, serving and partnering with his K-9 partner Flash, nothing could be more true than this statement.
Jason was selected to participate in a narcotics detection course at the Washington State Patrol with the Yakima Police Department in 2005. The department was testing for dogs in local humane societies and animal shelters when they came across Flash — nine-months-old from Everett, Washington with no home, no name and no family. Due to an animal aggression issue deriving from her background on the streets, Flash was deemed unadoptable and set to be put down just one day before Jason’s department decided to take her in for Police K-9 training.
“She was a day away from being euthanized, and it turned out she had the skills to be an amazing police dog,” Jason said. “We gave her a second chance — and she excelled, graduating as the only K-9 in her class to graduate with 100% on her certification. If a trooper hadn’t shown up that day, she might not even be alive today.”
By luck, chance and timing, Flash’s second chance in life led her to her ultimate purpose. And her career only proved it. She went on to serve at the Yakima Police Department until 2013, totaling 3000 deployments and over 2200 narcotic-related K-9 finds. She retired in 2013 and returned to live with Jason, her initial handler.
“As a detection dog, she would never give up searching until she could go no further,” Jason said. “I’ve never seen her back down or stop working. When I had the opportunity to get her back after retirement, I jumped at it — you’re closer to your K-9 partner than any human, since they’re with you 24/7!”
After training nearly 2000 dogs around the world for local, state, federal and international police agencies, Jason began to notice that these heroes were not properly being taken care of in their retirement. When K-9 Heroes like Flash retire, all funding is cut for their medical costs, surgeries, medication, food and death benefit assistance.
“Looking at my retired hero Flash, and all that she had done for her community, I was inspired to form the Project K-9 Hero Foundation and have K-9 Flash as our Ambassador,” Jason said. “Our mission is to make sure no Police K-9 or Military Working Dog ever has to go without care because funds are not available to them.”
In 2016, Flash and Jason started the Project K-9 Hero Foundation and began taking in retired K-9 Heroes who have special needs or are a financial burden on their owners. The foundation has now cared for dozens of retired K-9 Heroes from all over the nation who honorably and faithfully served their country. They provide up to $3000 a year in medical care, food, and death benefit assistance to each hero admitted into the program.
“These heroes work so hard, and when their time is up, they may not have a home to go to,” Jason said. “I’m happy to provide a great home for Flash and our K-9 heroes who deserve to be taken care of for their service to the country. We have dogs who have done high-risk missions, preserved millions of dollars and saved lives — and yet are completely forgotten.”
To give back and say thank you to communities all across America, Flash has her own children’s book called, “K-9 Flash Becomes a Hero.” At the age of 14, Flash still travels the nation with Jason to read her story to children at schools, spreading awareness about the needs of retired K-9 Heroes and inspiring children about the profession of being a Police or Military K-9 Handler.
“The kids love it, and it’s a great way to spread awareness about the K-9 profession,” Jason said. “When I first started in the army in 1993, I didn’t know you could spend a whole career working with dogs. When I talk with kids about what I do, they get excited about this career — it’s so rewarding as a profession!
Flash was recently nominated as the 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Awards Law Enforcement Dog of the Year, an annual, nationwide competition that recognizes America’s Hero Dogs — ordinary dogs doing extraordinary things. Being recognized for the law enforcement category, Jason is clear that this award is bigger than Flash’s accomplishments — but rather a recognition for her whole body of work and service to all her K-9 counterparts!
“We aren’t just here for an award — we want to spread awareness and complete our mission of taking care of retired heroes,” he said. “Flash is our ambassador, she represents us. We’re hoping to win so we can have a national platform to spread awareness about Project K-9 Hero. This award would be a huge help.”
You can vote for Flash here, once a day! Project K-9 Hero is committed to ensure that Flash and hundreds of other K-9 Heroes will be afforded the same benefits they lose after their retirements. Flash is a breathing example that no matter what odds may be stacked against you, it is possible to overcome anything in life. She was one day away from euthanasia before she got the chance to become a Police K-9, and she’s shined ever since.
"I saved her life, and in return, she gave me this one,” Jason reiterated. “When we took a chance on her, she returned the favor by giving me this life — running this foundation full-time for law enforcement and military dogs across America. I wouldn’t have this life without Flash. Our story is living proof of the power of second chances.”
To read more about Project K-9 Hero, check them out on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @projectk9hero or at www.projectk9hero.org.