HOUSTON (KTRK) -- For law enforcement officers at a scene, having a partner can change the entire situation and even the outcome. This week, some Houston-area officers are protecting our streets with new partners, ones they wouldn't have if it wasn't for a local non-profit.
"It's changed my whole life actually," says Deputy Jason Stevenson with Harris County Constable Pct. 1.
For the first time in his 10-year career, he's patrolling the streets with a four-legged partner.
"In today's society and the way things are, having a partner there behind you and having your back is, I can't even express the feeling it gives me. It's reassuring," Stevenson says.
Lethal graduated from the "K9s4Cops" academy this month, along with four classmates and their handlers. Deputy Kenneth Taylor with Harris County Constable Pct. 4 is one of them.
"The bond is nothing you can prepare yourself for. When you get to the end of your training, you and the dog are almost inseparable," he says.
For this group, that training included 320 hours, 440 scenarios, 1,500 bites, and 600 pounds of dog food. It adds up to $10,000-$15,000 per dog, not paid by the departments, but by private donations. Kristi Schiller created "K9s4Cops" in 2010 after hearing that a robbery suspect killed a local constable's dog.
"It was right before Christmas and now he has to go home and tell his children that his dog's not coming home but it saved daddy's life in the line of duty," Schiller recalls.
Today, her non-profit has given 105 dogs to departments in 29 states and taken $90 million worth of contraband off the streets.
"It is the most invaluable tool we can have," says Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen.
He has seven dogs in his fleet, and while the department covers things like vet bills and specialized cars, having the dogs and training donated takes a strain off his budget and his deputies.
"I think that it gives the officer some back-up confidence that they have somebody there that's got their back," Rosen says.
"Those dogs would lay down their lives at any point in time for us; it means the world," he said.
"He saves lives just like we do. He's just like us, he's a police officer. He's just on four legs," says Stevenson.
For more information on K9s4Cops, visit the organization's website.