Heather Frazier, a 20-year veteran in the Wichita Police Department, used to be afraid of dogs. Now she’s the department’s “Dog Whisperer.”
When she was a young girl, she had a paper route for the Trinidad Chronicle, a small newspaper serving southeast Colorado and northeast New Mexico. This was before the internet, when newspapers had morning and afternoon editions, it was acceptable to keep a dog chained in the front yard, and people trusted each other enough to let their 10-year-old daughter deliver the paper by herself.
But Frazier was never exactly alone on her paper routes. Every day, saddled with a bundle of afternoon editions and rubber bands, she tossed papers onto porches while a big black mutt with a white head was running along behind her, following her as she made her rounds.
Frazier, who now works the west beat for Wichita police, would shy away, afraid the dog would attack her.
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“She would follow me, and she scared the crap out of me — she was huge,” Frazier said.
“We did that for a little bit — scaring the crap out of me — and then finally my mom was just like, ‘Why don’t you keep her? She likes you.’ ”
It was the right choice, and $5 later, she had her first dog, which she named Lady.
It’s Frazier’s love for animals, and what animals can do for humans, that drove her to become “expert certified” in investigating animal abuse at the University of Missouri, she said. Thursday, the Wichita Police Department announced she will be the lead on any felony-level cases involving animals.
And Lady, the big black mutt with the white head that followed her as she delivered the local newspaper, may have saved Frazier’s life.
‘That’s why I do it’
One day while 10-year-old Frazier was throwing papers in Trinidad, a man started following her. He was acting peculiar, in a way a dog can sense. Lady the Labrador-mix, sprung into action.
“She knocked me down flat on the ground and she stood on me and she started barking,” Frazier said. “There’s no way that guy was getting near me.”
There’s no telling what would have happened had Lady not been there, but it’s fair to say she was willing to protect Frazier to the very end.
And now, decades later, it’s Frazier’s job to save the lives of dogs and other animals in Wichita. She has five pets, a mix of cats and dogs. She volunteers at an animal shelter. She’s traveled the world as a military brat, and she’s been surrounded by animals wherever she’s gone. Her fellow officers in the department refer to her affectionately as “The Dog Whisperer.”
Although her new duty as animal case investigator was announced Thursday, she’s been the go-to animal case investigator for Wichita police in her 20 years on the force.
For example, in May, Frazier was called to a north Wichita home where a woman had called the police on her boyfriend after she said she came home to her boyfriend raping her 5-month-old pit bull.
After Frazier processed a rape kit on the dog and further investigation, the man was arrested not only on suspicion of crimes against the dog but also on suspicion of domestic violence against his girlfriend.
A month and a half later, on Wednesday, Frazier and the pit bull she helped save were reunited. She’s happy to report the dog made a full recovery, and is being trained as a therapy dog at Beauties and Beasts, a local pet rescue shelter dedicated to giving “death row” dogs at second chance at life, including a new name.
What name did they give the pit bull? The name of the officer who saved his life: Frazier.
“I think that’s a pretty good name,” Frazier said, laughing. She gets giddy talking about Frazier. Sweet, well-behaved, happy, loving, mature — the words she uses to describe him.
“To think he can come back from what he went through — a dog whimpering on the table to running around wagging and happy and loveable — that’s why I’m doing this,” Frazier said.
‘Think about BTK’
Besides helping animals that have been abused, Frazier said her investigations will most likely lead to arrests for crimes against people. She said Frazier, the pit bull, is not an isolated case, and often the way people treat animals is an indication of the way they treat humans.
“Think about BTK,” Frazier said. “Think about any serial killer. It’s pretty well-established that cruelty to animals is a shared trait among deeply troubled people.”
That doesn’t mean everyone who is cruel to animals is a serial killer or a wife-beater or a child abuser, Frazier said, but it definitely raises red flags.
Investigating animal cruelty can be difficult work. Animals, like young children and some elderly people, are particularly vulnerable to abuse, Frazier said.
“Animals can’t talk,” Frazier said. “They can’t testify in court. We (the police) treat these investigations like cases where we’re dealing with a child or a person with Alzheimer’s who can’t speak. We collect all the evidence we can, and we try to catch the people who are responsible.”