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
asixth-grader at Piccowaxen Middle School in southern Charles County.
The girls, who last summer all lived in Ashford Oaks in Waldorf, set
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
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
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
The lightweight Kevlar vest fits around Tarzan's torso, leaving only
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
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
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
"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
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
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
On June 5, a police dog in Idaho Falls was shot to death as he chased
alleged kidnapper into some woods. In April, an Oxnard, Calif., police
department dog was fatally stabbed after attacking a fugitive who was
In September, a police dog in Union County, N.J., was fatally shot by
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.