By Yvette Orozco, Pasadena Citizen
Rosco had been one of the harder cases, with a history of aggression, and although he had also come the furthest, he ran out of time.
Sanders is dedicated to making sure every Rosco gets that second chance before they run out of time in a city shelter.
A canine officer with the Pasadena Police Department, Sanders operates his own business in the private sector, K9 Command Performance, where he conducts training and obedience classes.
Classes last six weeks and are conducted at the Majestic Pet Hotel and Boutique at 1913 NASA Parkway in Seabrook.
Those classes include detailed obedience training and an emphasis on forging communication between canine and human.
As a police K-9 handler and trainer, Sanders has been instrumental in the K-9 training for various police agencies. He is a certified evaluator for the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen Program and S.T.A.R. Puppy Program. He is also a member of the National Police Canine Association and a member of Pets and People Alliance in Pasadena.
Sanders has also used his experience to do voluntary work with various shelters throughout the Houston area, including League City and Pasadena, rehabilitating dogs like Rosco, and the young American bulldog he is currently working with, Konna.
The goal is to be the turning point in these dogs’ lives, the chance before being euthanized. The mission of his classes is to create better nurturing environments for pets so that pets do not end up homeless.
“I would say that 99 percent of the dogs in shelters who have issues is our fault,” Sanders said. “It’s our fault that they’re that way and it’s our responsibility. If I can educate people to learn how to give dogs another chance, to be the leader they need to be and to be able to communicate in a manner the dog will understand, then I’d feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
When Pasadena councilman Steve Cote was having behavioral issues with the family pet, Karen Hoffman, chief animal control officer for the Pasadena Animal Control and Adoption, referred him to Sanders and the outcome was a success.
At a recent city council meeting, Cote praised the work of Sanders, saying that if anyone needed assistance with a pet, Sanders was the person to go to.
Sanders said much of his success has come from years of experience, working to gain trust of dogs who mistrusted everyone else.
“I’ve always had a connection with dogs, growing up and that’s why I do what I do in my profession and in the business side of it,” he said. “I don’t think I had that gift, I think I developed it.”
His business and volunteer work are separate entities, but both merge his passion and compassion for the “hard cases”. Although he tries to avoid it, every time Sanders walks through the various city shelters he becomes more committed to his cause.
“I think anybody that walks in a shelter one time, if you don’t have your heartstrings tugging at you, something is wrong with you,” Sanders said. “It’s hard for me to go into that place.”
Even harder, Sanders said, is not being able to save every dog.
“I can’t say no,” he said.
K9 Command Performance welcomes all canines, from poodles needing discipline to lap dogs needing to learn better manners. While Sanders gets gratification from all his success stories, it is the hard cases that mean the most to him.
“Dogs coming out of shelters are not playing on an even playing field, they’re coming with all kinds of deficiencies, with the cards stacked up against them,” Sanders said. “If I can at least communicate to people how to communicate with these dogs, I accomplished something. People are good-hearted and mean well, but they just don’t have the knowledge to adopt. I’m trying to make that process easier.”
Next, Sanders will be facing a dog that is afraid of everything and he will work extensively to build that dog’s confidence and security level.
Meanwhile, Konna, the white pit bull Sanders calls “a gentle giant”, has had his own issues to overcome, including an injured leg. Konna continues to make progress and is hopefully closer to adoption, Sanders said.
Rosco had came a long way too. Not cuddly or cute by Disney standards and with a habit of growling through his cage, the result of prolonged confinement. Rosco never got his second chance, although he was ready for one.
“I had worked with him and worked with him,” Sanders said. “He was such an awesome dog and he had come such a long way and made such progress. We had made all that progress and it still didn’t work out for him. He ran out of time. I feel like I was his last chance.”
Rosco was eventually euthanized and Sanders will always remember the lost opportunity for the dog to have a loving home.
Mellow Konna, the 85-pound “gentle giant” who, according to Karen Hoffman, loves his creature comforts like air conditioning, is ready for his opportunity.
“He’s very intimidating to look at, but he’s the sweetest dog,” Sanders said.
For more information on K9 Command Performance and Sander’s work with rehabilitating canines, call 281-474-1244 or visit www.k9commandperformance.com For information on Konna and adoption options, call the Pasadena Animal Control and Adoption at 281-991-0602.