Nearly two months ago, Senior Police Officer Aundrea Holiday took a black-and-white terrier-pitbull mix named Princess out on the town in Williamsburg.
Then Holiday took out a caramel-colored Daphney, a green-eyed Apple, a wiggly terrier named Paisley, a treat-loving pitbull named Nora, a cheeseburger-eating Chimichanga and a brindle princess named Delaney.
And since then, almost all of them have been adopted from the Heritage Humane Society.
Still in its infancy, the Williamsburg Police Department and Heritage Humane Society’s K9 for a Day program has helped five of seven shelter dogs find new homes — only Nora and Delaney were left as of Friday.
“I love the fact that they’re entrusting these precious babies with me,” Holiday said. “I have the best job ever.”
Once each week, Holiday takes a quick drive over to Heritage Humane Society on Waller Mill Road and picks up a pup chosen by shelter staff. On Thursday, Holiday took Delaney out.
Throughout the morning, Holiday and her canine companion patrol the streets of Williamsburg. Most often, they’re not looking for crime — they’re looking to make friends.
Holiday is the community engagement officer for Williamsburg Police, meaning it’s her job to connect with the community outside of public safety and criminal situations.
“The dogs are icebreakers,” Holiday said.
Sometimes those friends become “forever” friends.
When Holiday took Apple out in Williamsburg on Feb. 21, she had already been at the humane society two months.
“This girl working at Yankee Candle, she really lit up when she saw Apple,” Holiday said.
The woman later adopted Apple.
The woman from Yankee Candle wasn’t the only person who fell in love with a K9 for a Day dog — Holiday did, too.
When Holiday first started the program, she knew she would fall in love with every dog she spent time with, but she loved one dog, Daphney, enough to put in an application for adoption.
Holiday was too late, and another family adopted the caramel-colored pitbull.
“I cried after I found out I couldn’t get her,” Holiday said. “I had already begun to picture life with her in my home … but as long as they have a forever home, that’s the only thing that really matters.”
A focus on behavior
Heritage Humane Society Executive Director Kimberly Laska said the K9 for a Day program has been “absolutely” successful in getting the dogs out into the community and later adopted.
The K9 for a Day program has also helped convince Heritage to do more: the humane society has hired a full-time behaviorist and will increase its focus on training, Laska said.
In October, Heritage staff posted a 20-second video on Facebook that later went viral. Part of the shelter’s dog enrichment program, the video showed a row of dogs in kennels licking and pawing at colorful flying discs covered in peanut butter and zip-tied to the kennel doors.
The ordinarily loud room was silent, save for the sounds of dogs contentedly licking the treat.
The Newport News Police Department has also started highlighting adoptable pets on social media. On Feb. 26, the department announced its new partnership with the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter on Facebook, called “Tail Wagging Tuesday.”
Social media is also crucial for the K9 for a Day program, Holiday said.
Holiday takes the dogs out to meet people in-person, but posting the candid photos of the dogs with city staff, children and other passersby on social media broadens the program’s reach.
Holiday typically takes the dogs out on Thursday mornings, then shares a post about the dog later in the day on the Williamsburg Police Department Facebook page.
“We need them to share their stories because they all deserve the very, very best,” Holiday said.