Texas Game Warden Scott Kirkpatrick loves his job, and especially that he gets to go to work every day with his K-9 partner Lola.

“She’s with me 24/7,” said Kirkpatrick, who works out of Johnson County in North Texas. “I just never know when I will get a dog call, so she’s with me anytime I am working.”

When Kirkpatrick first met Lola, she was a 6 1/2 -week-old puppy. At the time, Kirkpatrick didn’t know that she would end up being his partner. Kirkpatrick was fostering her as part of a puppy program started by several K-9 officers in Texas, Maine and Colorado. As Kirkpatrick got more involved in the network of K-9 officers across the country, they realized there was a need to train puppies in preparation for K-9 careers. Several officers across the country, including Kirkpatrick, volunteered for foster duty.

“When I was fostering her, Lola went everywhere with me to get her used to every kind of environment, from a rural pasture to a crowded Home Depot,” he said. “She quickly demonstrated that she had the drive and other characteristics that would make her a good K-9.”

As Kirkpatrick pondered the pending retirement of his K-9 partner, Ray, he realized his next partner was right underfoot.

“I have to admit I’d grown kind of attached to Lola, and I really liked the way her training was progressing,” he said. “I had started with her on some tracking exercises, and she just took that up like crazy. She just loves to work and her drive and energy are very high. So, I threw a pitch at my captain to see if I could keep her.”

Thanks to a Gear Up for Game Wardens K-9 fund, dollars were readily available to make the purchase, and Lola became an official member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s K-9 team.

Gear Up for Game Wardens is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) program which provides specialty gear for Texas Game Wardens through private donations. While the state provides the basic necessities for game wardens to do their jobs, there is still a critical need for additional equipment. Thanks to the support of generous Texans, TPWF helped launch the Texas Game Warden K-9 team in 2013 and is providing ongoing support for the purchase of new dogs and related gear.

In April 2022 at 14-months old, Lola was certified in Police Search and Rescue with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In September of 2022, she certified in Trailing with the North American Police Working Dog Association. On November 3, 2022, Lola was officially commissioned as a K-9 officer at a Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting in Austin, along with five of her K-9 colleagues.

Lola’s search and rescue training paid off for a frightened and lost little boy and his frantic family in mid-November 2022. Kirkpatrick got a call from Cedar Hill State Park, where a boy had been missing overnight. Kirkpatrick and Lola headed to the wooded area where he had last been seen, and Lola got to work.

“I saw her nose go down to the ground in a tracking behavior and she just took off,” said Kirkpatrick. “I just tried to keep up with her as best as I could, running through the brush and ducking down to avoid branches along the way. And then l looked up and there she was, just sitting right over there beside him.”

The little boy was safe and sound, and Lola had her first search and rescue mission under her collar.

“Of course, she got a treat after that successful rescue,” said Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick looks forward to working with Lola for the next eight or nine years, the average work life of a K-9. She will continue to hone her skills, while working alongside her human partner, who she adores.

“She’s very affectionate and just loves to get in your business. She gets very vocal when I’m trying get the harness on her to track something. She gets very excited about that. And when we are at home, I don’t get to do anything without her. If I’m going somewhere to run errands or whatever, she’s coming with me.”

Kirkpatrick appreciates the ongoing support the K-9 program receives from Gear Up for Game Wardens.

“Our program simply would not be where it is today if it was not for Gear Up for Game Wardens and the generous donations from the public. We are immensely grateful for their support.”