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More Than Man’s Best Friend

The Unique Partnerships of Police K9 Units and the Blue Line K9 Project

You may be familiar with K9 units based on their connection to the “War on Drugs,” but dogs have been working with law enforcement for more than 100 years. The sensory skills, protection and loyalty found in dogs is an asset to law enforcement agencies across the country.

We spoke to Sheriff Deputy Noah Billmaier of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, which is contracted by Deerfield Township for police services. He offered some insight into the unique partnership he has with his canine partner, Hendrix.

Deputy Noah Billmaier and K9 Officer Hendrix

Deputy Billmaier and Hendrix are assigned primarily as a proactive unit whose secondary function is to respond to calls of service for K9 needs. Officers may call on a K9 officer for drug detection, tracking, building searches and more.

Hendrix and Deputy Billmaier went through an intensive eight-week training course together provided by Police Dog Services in Carlisle, Ohio.

“When I got Hendrix, he only had a basic concept of obedience,” Deputy Billmaier says. “We spent the time learning narcotic odors, tracking, bite work, area searches, article detection and obedience training. The training was 40 hours a week, with a lot of homework.”

The duo officially began working together in April 2019 and have since helped track down illegal substances from multiple perpetrators. Hendrix was even able to track down and catch a fleeing passenger who tried to escape following a high-speed police chase. The passenger was a suspect of a theft offense.

Working with a K9 is a unique partnership, but Deputy Billmaier stresses that the pros outweigh the cons.

“I appreciate his willingness to work and his sense of loyalty to me,” he says. “He has a strong drive to complete any task I ask him to perform. He is always in a playful mood and happy to go and be at work.”

Of course, no one is perfect.

“Biggest con would be trying to keep my cruiser clean,” Deputy Billmaier says. “There’s a lot of dog hair everywhere.”

When off duty, Hendrix lives with Deputy Billmaier, along with his family and two other German shepherds. When relaxing, Hendrix enjoys common dog activities, like playing fetch or relaxing under the shade of a tree.

Though Hendrix is able to relax, he easily gets back to work at a moment’s notice.

“He is very task-driven, so he is able to go from relaxation mode to work mode very quickly,” Deputy Billmaier says.

Deputy Billmaier and Hendrix are one of the youngest K9 teams in the area. The average service life of a police K9 is about six to nine years, mainly depending on the dog’s health. Unfortunately, many police stations have struggled with proper funding and resources to provide for K9 officer units. Four years ago, Jill Cutter stepped forward to help with this issue.

“I appreciate his willingness to work and his sense of loyalty to me.” –Deputy Noah Billmaier 

The Blue Line K9 Project

The Blue Line K9 Project is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization based in Mason working to benefit the training and protection of officers and canines. Jill, an official court reporter for Hamilton County courts, started the Blue Line K9 Project this year after learning of police K9s being injured in the field due to a lack of protection.

“I became especially concerned in 2016 after learning that K9 Pako of Springfield Township Police Department was shot during a criminal track,” Jill says.

Pako luckily survived but had not been wearing any ballistic protection.

“I started asking questions and learned that most police department K9 units are underfunded. Some are even self-funded by the K9 officer,” Jill says. “The proper protective K9 gear and training equipment can be very expensive. The K9s get called to assist in dangerous and violent situations. They go into the unknown ahead of their handler. I felt they should be protected as adequately as their human partner.”   

Since 2016, Jill has assisted various nonprofit organizations across the country and volunteered to raise awareness and funds to benefit officers and K9s.

“Our goal is to continue to help in the Midwest with protective gear, training equipment and end-of-life expenses, so the officers can do their job as safely as possible,” Jill says.

Most K9 officers in need hear about the Blue Line K9 Project by word of mouth from other K9 officers who have been touched by their services. The Blue Line K9 Project gives average citizens a unique opportunity to sponsor a vest for a K9 in their community. When a citizen sponsors a vest, it is custom-embroidered with the name of the sponsor and/or a message. K9s in need are also commonly found through social media and news reports.

“I started asking questions and learned that most police department K9 units are underfunded. Some are even self-funded by the K9 officer.” –Jill Cutter 

Kudo’s Story

Jill was able to adopt retired police K9 Kudo, who has since become a mascot of sorts for the Blue Line K9 Project. Kudo is a Dutch shepherd who is certified in obedience, tracking, article searches and drug detection by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

Before retirement, Kudo worked in partnership with Officer Brian Huntington as a part of the Colerain Police Department. Officer Huntington and K9 Kudo completed a 14-week K9 Training Academy program with the Cincinnati Police Department and graduated to become a Special Purpose Police K9 Unit. They would go on to become one of the most certified K9 Units in the country.

Kudo’s decorated career inspired the founders to start the Blue Line K9 Project. Now in retirement, Kudo models the ballistic vests that the Blue Line K9 Project donates.

The Importance of K9 Officer Units

K9 officer units continue to be a vital part of law enforcement today. Their keen senses and agility help keep officers one step ahead. K9s help officers track and locate missing persons, missing evidence and criminal suspects. In addition, they help keep communities safe by locating illegal drugs and detecting bombs and other explosives. The service they offer our community is uniquely important. Shining examples like Kudo and Hendrix prove that dogs can be so much more than man’s best friend.

To learn more about the Blue Line K9 Project, visit