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Nova was once a young 1-year-old German Shepherd struggling to survive. Now, three years later, Nova is the winner of the 2021 Detector Dog Case of the Year award. She is thriving as a successful K9 of the Geary County Sheriff’s Office, loving life and her job.

Nova was discovered abandoned and abused at a Sapp Bros truck stop in 2018. She had severe injuries to her muzzle, as if her muzzle had been bound shut, and she was badly malnourished. The Junction City Animal Shelter took her in and worked on bringing her back to health.

Captain Justin Stopper, of the Geary County Sheriff’s Office, said it was around that time when the Sheriff’s Office was on the search for a new K9 dog to assist in searches and tracking. They initially looked at sellers, but then they found Nova at the shelter.

“She’s a very friendly dog. That’s one of the reasons that we picked her,” Stopper said. “We were looking for a dog that was really sociable that we didn’t have to worry about her biting somebody or injuring somebody.”

Despite the abuse she had been through, Stopper said she had a sweet demeanor since the moment they met her, and she didn’t portray any trust issues. She passed every test and training they put her through quickly and with ease. In March of 2019, she received her initial certification in Drug Detection, Tracking and Evidence Searches.

Since then, Stopper said Nova goes to work with him, her handler, every day and has excelled in each of those categories, contributing to many successful searches of drugs, missing persons and suspects.

“She is a very fast learner… She excels in everything and surprises me everyday with what she can do,” Stopper said. “She had almost 60 deployments in one year, and that’s for anything from vehicle sniffs to evidence recovery to tracking.”

In October 2020, Nova led officers to the location of 95 pounds of methamphetamine hidden inside a vehicle, when she indicated a drug odor was emanating from it during a traffic stop. This led to her receiving the 2021 Detector Dog Case of the Year award at the annual Heart of America Police Dog Association certification event held in Ankeny, Iowa last month.

“She’s only been a police dog for two and a half years, but she has accomplished a lot,” Stopper said. “It’s pretty humbling, because she is put into those situations more than some other dogs might be, but for her it’s all play.”

In addition to her essential work in the field, Nova is occasionally requested to attend schools to help teach children about what she does. Stopper said Nova loves pets and cuddles from anyone she meets, especially during those events.

Stopper said Nova loves her work and, with continued health, she will maintain her role as a Sheriff’s Office K9 for many years to come.

“What makes her special is her story and her perseverance,” he said. “She has struggled through a lot, and she is probably living the best life she probably can right now.”

Nova continues to serve Geary County, still bearing the scars on her muzzle that remind people of her story of survival and now her story of success.

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