Leader of the Pack

Name: Linda Shawnee-Hurley Currently Employed with: Emergent BioSolutions Current Title: Protective Services K9 Officer

Linda and Bravo/ Photo by Kelly Mazurkiewicz

Having a passion early in life, Linda Shawnee-Hurley, always knew she’d end up working with animals. But growing up with a family in law enforcement gave Shawnee-Hurley the rare chance to see what her future career with K9s could really be. “When I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian, but when I found out what I had to do, I decided that wasn’t for me,” Shawnee-Hurley said. “But my father was a police officer with the Lansing Police Department, so I got to do a lot of job shadowing with him. One time I got to see the K9 unit raid a house for drugs, and I was taken back at how amazing they were. I was like ‘Wow! This is cool.’ It was my first real interest in the field, it felt natural to me.” Once Shawnee-Hurley found her passion, there was no stopping her, despite that fact that women naturally have more obstacles to overcome to be a K9 hander. Her first job in the field was as a corrections officer for Clinton County jail, where she wrote the policies and procedures to introduce a K9 unit to the facility. Although Shawnee-Hurley did not get the chance to be the K9 officer on staff, this step started her career and inspired her to work harder. “Being a female, it is a little more difficult being a K9 trainer. We have some limitations men just don’t have to deal with. I had to work really hard to train my voice to be lower and gain a lot of upper body strengthen to be able to do what I needed to,” Shawnee-Hurley said. There are a few key elements to being a strong and assertive K9 trainer and Shawnee-Hurley shares a few tricks of the trade. “When you’re working with K9s your voice has to really clear and your words have to be pronounced well. You have to use sharp and to-the-point commands to make sure they understand what you want from them,” said Shawnee-Hurley. “They are pack animals so it is important to build a relationship with them. You need to become the alpha. If you are they alpha they will do anything you want them to. ” Shawnee-Hurley admits as much as she loves having her four-legged friends on the job with her, it is a career that demands dedication and attention. Shawnee-Hurley has raised and trained her own dogs to work beside her, which is not typical in the field. It is Shawnee-Hurley’s background and talent in training that allows her to use her own dogs, which is an added commitment. “It requires a lot of commitment to be a handler. It’s not a job you clock in and out of. It’s a lifestyle. My dogs go everywhere with me, and they are working dogs, so even on vacation, we do training,” Shawnee-Hurley said. It’s Shawnee-Hurley’s dedication to her trade that has brought her and her K9 counterparts great success. Shawnee-Hurley’s two dogs, Bravo (a Dutch Shepard/Belgian Malinois mix, retired in 2012) and Brody (a Dutch Shepard, currently on the job) are highly skilled and specially trained to seek out explosives. In 2010 Shawnee-Hurley was appointed a Trainer for the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers (NAPCH), which made her the first female trainer for this association. She was also named Explosives K9 Officer of the year. To add to her list of accomplishments, Shawnee-Hurley’s dog Bravo took first place in Dogs Against Drugs/Dogs Against Crime Extreme Games for explosives detection in 2005. Bravo also was recognized for his service in searching more than 29,000 vehicles during his career. Shawnee-Hurley says she has a lot of people to thank for their support, which was needed to break into a field that is prominently made up of men. “I am so thankful to, my dad for being my dad … my hero and my inspiration. My mom for being there helping me to get through all of my training and encouraging me to not give up on my dreams (and) my husband for all of his support,” Shawnee-Hurley said. “I’d like to thank the Lansing Police Department K9 unit, East Lansing Police Department K9 unit and MSU Police Department K9 unit for all of their support and training opportunities. Thank you to White Collar K9, Master Trainers Gary Godlewski and Tom Stevenson. There are so many Master Trainers and Trainers that have had such a positive impact on my career and my life I can’t even begin to list them all. They are all so dear to me. And a special thank you to Emergent Director Mark Alley for such a wonderful opportunity.” Shawnee-Hurley had the support of her friends and family to help her achieve her dreams and hopes the passion she has for her career will encourage other women to push through the obstacles to reach for their dreams. “I’ve been working around K9s since 1994. When I started, female trainers were few and far between. Now there are a lot more female handlers, and it’s wonderful to see. If it is what they want to do, they should go for it,” Shawnee-Hurley said. “You can’t let yourself think you can’t do it. You have to be passionate, stay committed and follow your dreams.”

Tags: BioSolutions, Careers for Consideration, K-9 training

Ami Iceman-Haueter

Ami Iceman-Haueter

Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.

Social Media