Pets & Animals

This K-9 didn't get the memo that official paw-traits are serious business

When it's time to work, Kenobi is the serious and focused K-9 partner to Indiana Conservation Officer Levi Knach.

But it's not always time to work.

Off duty, Kenobi gets a little goofier — as the world recently discovered, when some unexpectedly tender official paw-traits of the Lab smooching Knach went viral.

Courtesy of Indiana DNR
Well, this is just adorable.

"And it's exactly what you see in those pictures," Knach told TODAY in an email.

Those pictures, those charming pictures, were posted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Facebook page last week.

Due to their incomparable cuteness, the photos spread across the internet faster than an aggressively growing invasive species. (That's a little natural resources humor for you, there.)

"I thought they were cute. Obviously the rest of the world does, too," said Capt. William Browne, who put the photos online.

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Courtesy of Indiana DNR
Sometimes you have to get serious.

Browne said he welcomes the opportunity not just to spread joy and happiness, but also to get folks excited about what it is that conservation officers and their K-9 partners do — such as protecting the state's natural resources, investigating wildlife poaching and conducting search and rescue missions.

In fact, just before the photos were posted, Knach and Kenobi had worked a 17-hour shift, helping search for a missing child. (Luckily, the kid was found safe.)

When Knach first heard from his brother — then from everyone — that he was making the news, he expected it was related to that case.

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"'No, it had pictures of Kenobi licking your face,'" Knach recalls his brother saying. "Lately it seems that we, as police in general, have taken on some heat and when officers go viral it's not for the positive. But this is every bit of positive."

Courtesy of Indiana DNR
The full Indiana DNR K-9 team

You ready to get your heart warmed even a little more?

Knach has been a conservation officer for about a decade. It's a job he says he feels like he was meant to do, from a young age.

He grew up in rural Indiana, and "most of my childhood was spent outside," Knach said. "Seeing conservation officers was the norm. One time our horses got loose and a conservation officer stopped by the house to let us know. I started inquiring on what it is that conservation officers do and it seemed to be right up my alley."

Courtesy of Indiana DNR
Kenobi works hard, and licks often.

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But Kenobi wasn't born or bred to work with law enforcement. His early life, in fact, was pretty rough.

Kenobi had been living with a family who kept him chained up outside, up until a few years ago. That's when Knach and another K-9 handler began looking in local shelters and other sources for a rescue dog to train for the K-9 unit.

Kenobi, then called Coco, was listed on Craigslist. "He had no prior training and did not know what 'sit' meant," said Knach. But the dog showed the kind of curiosity and drive that suggested he could learn the job.

Courtesy of Levi Knach
Kenobi with Levi Knach's wife, Karlie

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Despite his inauspicious start, Kenobi is now highly trained — and, as you can see in the photos, highly loved.

The dog lives with Knach and his wife — yes wife; apologies to Knach's own hopeful new fans — where he makes his family very happy (and now, thanks to these gloriously goofy photos, a whole bunch more people, too).

"I mean you look at social media and it seems that there is a bunch of negativity that floats around. I think people like a break in that," said Knach. "Maybe it took a dog to break a little bit of this negativity."

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