BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Even in the end, K-9 Shield was there for Craig Lehner, the human he'd bonded with.
Greg Whelehan remembers the beginning.
"When he came into the kennel, it was like...he was very confident," Whelehan, who owns Upstate K-9, said of Lehner. "He took the dog's leash, and it was his dog from there on."
Upstate K-9 imports and trains police dogs. Whelehan brought Shield to the U.S. from Holland, and says he knew from the beginning he was something special.
"Over the years, they've become kind of over-bred and watered-down, I guess, is a good word, and there's becoming a lot of health problems in German Shepherds," he said. "When I found Shield and the quality of Shield, I was just amazed. I import mostly Malinois and Dutch Shepherds, and he was the quality of them as far as drive-wise, healthy-wise."
When Lehner and Shield were first paired up last year, Whelehan says he spoke with the officer on a daily basis as Shield went through training in Canada. He stayed in touch with them, last speaking to Lehner about Shield's success in July.
Buffalo police say they have no plans of letting go of the K-9.
"He gets rotated through the different handlers. They keep exercising, training with him, and I believe that the search now goes into finding the right handler that we talked about to match to his skill set," said BPD Lt. Jeff Rinaldo.
Whelehan says he's confident that Shield has a strong enough foundation to continue on with another handler.
"It's a special dog. It's a once-in-a-lifetime German Shepherd," Whelehan said.