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3 Girls Raise Funds for Police Dog Safety


July 15, 2002
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3 Girls Raise Funds for Police Dog Safety

Bulletproof Vest Given to Canine Cop

by Michael Amon, Washington Post

The idea for a summer project for Erica Moran, Jenna Garrett and Kristin Qualters came in June 2001 as they were just sitting around, talking and laughing, as 10-year-old girls are likely to do on a hot, lazy day.

They had just read a story Kristin had found about a girl in California who raised money to buy her local police department's patrol dog a bulletproof vest, and it made them think.

"We all liked dogs a lot, so we decided to do it," said Kristin, now 11, asixth-grader at Piccowaxen Middle School in southern Charles County.

The girls, who last summer all lived in Ashford Oaks in Waldorf, set up a lemonade stand a few days a week and also went door to door, selling homegrown tomatoes and freshly baked brownies. In two months they raised about $50.

To help out, Erica's mother, Dori Moran, threw a Pampered Chef cutlery party and donated about $200 to their effort. With an additional $250 donated by a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to outfitting police dogs, the girls had enough money to buy a bulletproof vest for one of the 10 dogs on the Charles County sheriff's office canine team.

Last week, Erica, 10, Jenna, 11, and Kristin saw the fruits of their labor for the first time on the back of Tarzan, a 6 1/2-year-old German shepherd who has worked as a patrol dog for the sheriff's office for five years.

The lightweight Kevlar vest fits around Tarzan's torso, leaving only his head, legs and tail exposed. Sheriff Frederick E. Davis (R) pronounced the vest an "excellent piece of gear," and Cpl. Dan Bacon, Tarzan's handler, said it will protect him in dangerous situations.

"He will do a lot of stuff that no one else does," Bacon said. "That's why we have him, so we don't have to send officers into a sticky situation."

Most of the sheriff's office's canine team are patrol dogs like Tarzan who are trained to sniff out drugs and track down missing people and fugitives.

Tarzan will pass the vest on to another dog after his retirement later this year. The veteran patrol dog is developing arthritis in his hips and doesn't move around like he used to. But he was still able to sniff out about $20,000 worth of crack cocaine in an arrest last month, Bacon said.

"He doesn't even sound like he needs help because he did all that stuff himself," Jenna said, referring to Tarzan's accomplishments, including tracking down a murder suspect and helping police close several burglary cases.

The girls have pet dogs, and they said their effort partly grew out of their affection for animals. Dori Moran said her daughter's room is filled with pictures of dogs and dog figurines.

"She loves her dogs," Moran said.

The story that inspired the girls' efforts was in the book "Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul." It was written by 11-year-old Stephanie Taylor, of Oceanside, Calif., who raised money for protective vests for police dogs in her hometown and started her own nonprofit organization, called Vest-A-Dog, which helps communities raise money for the gear. Vest-A-Dog helped Erica, Jenna and Kristin finance their sheriff's office vest, and Taylor's story has prompted other supporters in Florida and Colorado.

Though it is unknown how many police dogs die in the line of duty, it is not uncommon.

On June 5, a police dog in Idaho Falls was shot to death as he chased an alleged kidnapper into some woods. In April, an Oxnard, Calif., police department dog was fatally stabbed after attacking a fugitive who was fleeing officers.

In September, a police dog in Union County, N.J., was fatally shot by a police officer who thought it was a vicious stray attacking a girl. In fact the dog was chasing a suspect in a car theft.

Bacon said no one has shot at police dogs in Charles County. If it ever does happen, Erica, Jenna and Kristin said they hope their contribution makes a difference.

"We want to protect the dogs who protect us," Jenna said.




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