Mary Ann Shaffer said she had always liked dogs but was never really a dog person until Buddy, her first German shepherd.
“Before I got Buddy, I never had a dog in the house,” Mary Ann said, laughing. “I just lost my mind. He was so easy to love.”
When Mary Ann and her husband, Steve Shaffer, got Buddy in 2012, they couldn’t have possibly known the path down which he would lead them. Eventually, one dog turned into six German shepherds, and the Shaffers developed a deep love for the breed.
Mary Ann, a 24-hour flight nurse, and Steve, a firefighter, are real-life heroes, first responders on the front lines. So, it comes as no surprise that when you take these two amazing people and add some pretty incredible animals, the result is, well … it’s changing lives.
As a captain with the Tupelo Fire Department, Steve was already involved with law enforcement and well-acquainted with the K-9 unit. Because of Buddy, his interest in the K-9 unit grew. So he got involved and started asking more questions of colleagues.
“A lot of people think it’s the easiest job in the department, but this is the hardest job in the department,” Steve said. “If that department only has one dog, they are gonna call them 24/7.”
In 2017, an opportunity arose, and Steve and Mary Ann turned their love for the breed into a full-time second career when they purchased the K-9 Training Center in Tupelo from its original owner. Gary Dodds founded the K-9 academy and has worked with law enforcement agencies in the area for years providing dogs and training. He trained Steve and Steve’s first police dog, Ricco.
With Dodds’ help, Steve became certified as a handler and then as a trainer. To date, eight dogs the Shaffers have trained or helped train are working in law enforcement. One of their dogs, Gunner, works with Officer B.J. Gladney in Okolona. The two recently came in second place in the state law enforcement association competition.
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