Posted Date: 11/30/2023
They say dogs are a man's best friend and that couldn't be more true for UISD Police Department K-9 Handler Sandra Carmona and her newest partner Hlora, a one year old German Shorthaired Pointer.
Carmona has worked as a K-9 handler for 16 years. Her late husband encouraged her to become one due to her love for animals. Since then, she has handled four dogs throughout her career. Carmona said that Hlora’s personality is different from her previous dogs. The cookies and cream patterned dog is a ball of energy.
Before joining UISD, Hlora learned various detection skills while training at Lackland Air Force Base. However, her anxiety around loud noises disqualified her from advancing to the next level. Despite this, Carmona noticed that Hlora possessed all the top qualities to keep schools and children safe. “She stole my heart the very first day,” expressed Carmona.
Hlora is one of three dogs in the K-9 Handlers Program. The other two dogs include Eda, a Belgian Malinois, and Xanti, a German Shepherd.
The dogs are strictly narcotics K-9s and were recently certified in a two-week narcotic training. They can recognize four basic narcotics: marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
The average retirement age for the dogs ranges from 9 to 10 years old depending on their health status. During the dogs’ retirement, handlers are given the opportunity to adopt them as personal pets.
The UISD K-9 Handlers Program was established in October 2002 to detect and confiscate illegal drugs in schools. Since then, the department has improved and expanded. Their newest officer, Damien Reynaga, is their first certified peace officer and handler in 20 years. Xanti is the first dog he handles.
The relationship between a handler and their dog is like no other. As Carmona describes it, “Nobody is gonna pay you to go and play with your partner.” Like any relationship, the bond grows over time. Officer Penny Longoria, who handles Eda, said, “It takes about two years just for us to bond with the dog. They get to know our behavior and we get to know theirs.”
The handlers believe that the K-9 Handlers Program is essential to the district. “We get to work with the dog all day, but then we also get to help protect and serve the district at the same time,” said Longoria.
After a month of working together, Carmona shared that Hlora is steadily improving. In addition to detecting narcotics, Hlora participates in drug presentations and press conferences. As for Carmona, playing with Hlora is what she looks forward to doing everyday. “I believe she needed that handler love…I needed Hlora, and Hlora needed me.”