The working dogs of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office are looking a little sharper, and a lot safer, thanks to Lisa Williams and a good dog named Fala.
Williams and Fala were a pair competing in schutzhund, a training sport focused on tracking, obedience and protection traditionally tailored for German shepherd dogs — dogs like Fala.
The sport requires a sharp training routine on the part of both dog and handler, emphasizing three areas that broadly overlap with police work.
Like with other classes of working dog training, schutzhund demands an intense daily routine that creates a powerful bond between person and animal.
“She helped me learn the sport,” Williams said of Fala on Monday, May 20. “I took her to the highest level … it’s a lot of training, and she needed a job.”
As a personal pet, the job ended up being seven years of duty in schutzhund beginning in 2009. And Fala looked the part, decked out in goggles to protect her sensitive eyes.
“The training creates a bond that I’ve never experienced. You spend so much time with the dog, and they’re so focused on the handler, that they look to you for everything. When you watch the video, you can clearly see the bond that we have,” Williams said before she was overcome with emotion.
Fala died in 2018.
The German shepherd dog was born with an autoimmune disease that left her eyes overly sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. Williams learned of the illness after a visit to the veterinarian when the dog was 2 years old.
The diagnosis meant that Fala was doomed to either a life cooped up indoors or early blindness.
“She’s not a pet dog. She needed more activity than just lying around the house,” Williams said.
And so she found Rex Specs, which manufactures goggles for dogs that protect their eyes not only from sunlight, but debris and other types of hazards. For police dogs, the goggles help guard the dogs from assailants who might be training to fight them off with hands, weapons or spray.
Fala and Williams eventually became brand ambassadors for Rex Specs.
To honor Fala, Williams decided to buy 10 sets of the goggles after a chance encounter with a Hall County Sheriff’s Office K-9 handler in line at the Dawsonville Chick-Fil-A during National K-9 Veterans Day.
I saw the K-9 handler from Hall County behind me in the line and I paid for his meal. We talked for a little bit, and after I left I thought, “You know what, I live in Hall County … and I should do something for the county I live in and do something that way.”
She decided to reach out to the Sheriff’s Office to find a way to give back — which led her to the K-9 units and Rex Specs.
She and Deputy Jay Ivey settled on 10 sets of goggles for the working dogs of Hall County.
“It’s always encouraging to meet a citizen with such big heart and willingness to do something nice for the agency and our K-9s,” Ivey said in a statement. “All of the deputies in the K-9 Unit are dog lovers and share Ms. Williams appreciation for them.”
Since Fala’s death in 2018, Williams has found another partner for her training: King, a German shepherd dog imported from Belgium.
This story has been updated from its original version.