Bulletproof dogs

Picture a crime scene out of at TV cop show: A body is found in a forest late at night and the police are investigating. Chances are there's a canine unit at the scene, trying to determine which way the killer went. Suddenly, the dog catches the scent of the perpetrator and takes off into the woods after him. What happens to that dog if the killer has a knife or a gun? Nothing, if the dog is equipped with a bullet-resistant vest.“We ask these dogs to risk their lives in places of an officer's life,” said Summit County Sheriff's Office deputy Nathan Opsahl, the K9 handler for the office. “We want to give them the same protection we have on the street.”The sheriff's office doesn't have the money to purchase vests for their two canine cops, Tommy and Bobby. So to remedy the situation, members of the sheriff's office will hold a fundraiser to come up with the $4,500 they need to purchase two “Patrol Swat Vests” for the dogs. According to a press release from the fundraiser's organizers, the vests are “equipped with ballistic panels as well as slash and stab protection against a range of wide blade common street knives.”“A police canine is no different than any other officer,” said Sheriff John Minor, who has a fully trained police canine of his own named Nick. “They're a part of the family.”Starting this Friday at the Frisco BBQ challenge, sheriff's office employees will sell tickets for a raffle to be held during the August 1 K9 4K race. They will collect donations and merchandise from local businesses to give away as a single grand prize, with the exception of the cash donations. Any additional donations above the cost of the vests will go the Summit County K9 program.
Dog dutyDeputy Opsahl has worked with Tommy and Bobby as the K9 Deputy for about a year. He described himself as a dog person (he has his own German Shepherd, Barrett) but said it takes more than that to make it as a police dog handler.“It helps to be a dog person, but that's not the quality they're looking for,” Opsahl said. “It's more about how dedicated you are to the program.”In addition to his regular police duties, Opsahl has to put in extra hours to make sure the dogs are healthy and well trained.Not that being a police dog handler is all fun and games. Tommy and Bobby are both “dual purpose dogs” according to Opsahl. This means they participate in activites like narcotics searches and tracking as well as regular patrol and what Opsahl called “bite work.” That's police code for having the having the dogs apprehend suspects ... by biting them and taking them down. In spite of the extra work, Opsahl said he wouldn't trade it for anything.“I love it, it's a great job,” he said.

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