After leaving service dog training because he was too distracted by scents, Sheldon the Labrador retriever/golden retriever mix became an arson detection dog with Texas' Saginaw Fire Department

By Kelli Bender
May 17, 2021 03:28 PM
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Lieutenant John Tadlock and Arson K-9 Sheldon
Credit: State Farm/Heather Paul

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again — and that's exactly what Sheldon did.

Several years ago, the Labrador retriever/golden retriever mix started service dog training with Paws With A Cause in Wayland, Michigan, but "flunked out" for being too distractable, per State Farm. Sheldon specifically had a strong drive to find things by sniffing them out, which prevented him from learning his service dog training tasks.

Shortly after leaving the service dog school, Sheldon learned to turn his need to use his nose into a beneficial quality. The sharp-sniffing pooch was taken in by the State Farm Arson Dog Program, where he quickly excelled at sniffing out the accelerants and fuel used in arson fires.

In 2019, Sheldon was placed with Lieutenant John Tadlock of the Saginaw Fire Department in Saginaw, Texas, as the department's first accelerant detection canine. The pair formed an instant connection in their first days of training together, a spark that has grown into a special friendship.

Lieutenant John Tadlock and Arson K-9 Sheldon
Credit: State Farm/Heather Paul
Lieutenant John Tadlock and Arson K-9 Sheldon
Credit: State Farm/Heather Paul

Off-duty, Sheldon lives with Tadlock as a beloved pet and works on his training daily at home. When he retires from his arson detection duties, Sheldon will live at Tadlock's house full time, enjoying his golden years surrounded by loving friends.

Lieutenant John Tadlock and Arson K-9 Sheldon
Credit: State Farm/Heather Paul

At work, Sheldon helps the greater Fort Worth area track down arsonists by sniffing out the presence of accelerants at fire scenes. He and Tadlock recently completed their annual certification under the State Farm Arson Dog Program, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and are looking forward to many more years of working together.

The State Farm Arson Dog Program started in 1993 and has trained more than 425 dogs. Currently, 100 human-canine arson teams are operating in North America.