Akron police Capt. Dave Laughlin was still a lieutenant working overnights in July 2016 when he heard officers on the radio say they picked up a stray pit bull in South Akron.

Laughlin headed over to East South and Sumner streets and saw the pooch in the back of a cruiser.

“He was sitting there. No jumping around. No barking,” Laughlin said Saturday. “It was odd. He was just looking around.”

Officers took the dog to Summit County Animal Control, where Laughlin later visited and began to fret that someone might adopt the friendly fido as a bait dog — a sacrificial animal used to teach other dogs how to fight and kill.

He took a picture of the dog — named Abbot by people in animal control — to show his fiancee, but before she even saw it, she knew they were about to get a third dog.

Now Laughlin is Mr. September and Abbot is Mr. Canine September in a 2018 calendar collaboration between Akron police and Pay It Forward for Pets, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping Summit County Animal Control.

It’s called Back the Blue and Shelter Pets, Too. Georjette Thomas, who founded Pay It Forward for Pets in 2013, said the calendar combines two sure things that bring comfort to humanity.

“One is the unconditional love and relationships we have with our companion pets,” she said. “And two is the assurance of our security services.”

Almost everyone will some day call 911 to help themselves or someone they love, she said.

More than two dozen Akron officers posed with all sizes and kinds of dogs — including many rescues — for the $20 wall calendar. Proceeds benefit Thomas’ nonprofit, which puts 85 percent of its efforts into the government-funded Summit County Animal Control.

Thomas worked with Akron police Capt. Kris Beitzel to make it happen.

The women met a couple of years ago when Beitzel worked to successfully strengthen Akron’s animal cruelty laws — including proper tethering, shelter and access to fresh water.

There was a time, Beitzel said, when people thought only the dog warden dealt with stray animals. And before Summit County Animal Control moved to Opportunity Parkway, when it was still based in the Little Cuyahoga River Valley, “that’s where you took dogs to die.”

None of that is true anymore.

Police officers now often pick up (and drop off) strays.

And the county no longer euthanizes animals for the length of stay or space, in part because of Thomas’ organization and a network of nonprofit rescues.

Pay It Forward for Pets has six programs aimed at expediting animal adoptions and ending euthanasia.

Among other things, the nonprofit sends a professional photographer twice a week to shoot pictures of dogs and cats outside of their cages at the animal control facility.

On Sundays, Pay It Forward for Pets posts those pictures on its own Facebook page, along with other searchable pet adoption sites, so people looking for a dog and cat can see what the county shelter has to offer.

The group also helps pay medical expenses for shelter animals, covers adoption fees for people over 55, helps Summit County veterans bring their pets home from abroad and visits grade schools to teach children about compassion and how to handle animals.

In May, after receiving an anonymous $200,000 donation, Pay It Forward for Pets also opened a nonprofit boutique doggie day care and kennel by the same name in the former Freshway Market in Merriman Valley.

Animal lovers can treat their pets there, Thomas said, while knowing the money paid goes to helping other animals in the community.

Akron theme

Thomas said she and Beitzel began brainstorming the calendar this spring.

All of the pictures were taken with Akron as a backdrop.

The cover shows Beitzel with her and her husband’s five dogs, all rescues.

At the center of the picture, cradled by Beitzel’s left arm, is Charley, who was found wandering Akron with a bloody stump where her paw was missing.

Beitzel said Charley likely got into a fight with a bigger dog or got her foot stuck in a trap and chewed it off. Either way, the stump had to be amputated.

Another photo shows Sgt. Eric McDonald leaning on a police motorcycle while another of Capt. Laughlin’s dogs — a 7-pounder named Louie — sits on the seat, his ears lifted, his head tilted as if he’s posing for a photographer.

Only one dog featured in the calendar is still looking for a home, Beitzel said.

She’s a young black and white pit bull mix named Hayden who was photographed with a female officer on stone steps downtown.

Anyone interested in Hayden can contact Maggie’s Mission and Horse Rescue in Sharon Center.

But there are scores of other animals always looking for homes in Greater Akron.

You can see those from Summit County Animal Control on Pay It Forward for Pets’ Facebook page or by searching sites like Petfinder.com.

Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com.