k9 tess

Ken Hedler7:07 p.m. MST February 19, 2015

(Photo: Ken Hedler / The Spectrum & Daily News)

HURRICANE – The Washington County Sheriff’s Office now has more of a “vested interest” in a member of the 2-dog K-9 unit that WCSO imported from Holland and assigned to a handler.

Therefore, it seemed fitting that Tess, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, now wears a vest with a 1,000-thread-count canvas insulated with 13 layers of Kevlar to protect it from bullets and stabbings.

Tess aids its handler, Deputy Mike Graf, in arrests and narcotics detection while WCSO’s other K-9 is assigned to Purgatory Correctional Facility.

Graf, WCSO Sheriff Cory Pulsipher and other members of the sheriff’s office attended a ceremony Thursday in which Nick Whitney, owner and chief executive officer of Tread Armament and Weaponry in Washington City, fitted Tess with the vest.

The donation of the vest was made possible by a fundraising drive that Cathy Williams of Apple Valley has spearheaded through Vest Dixie’s Area K-9s, which she founded in October.

Williams coincidentally founded her organization during the same month that Whitney opened Tread.

She said her group is raising money to supply vests to the 10 dogs serving law enforcement agencies in Washington County, with five more dogs to go.

Whitney said the vests cost about $1,000 brand-new while he was able to negotiate the price to $750 from the supplier, Bullet Blocker of Boston.

He said a major aspect of his business is e-commerce, selling bullet-resistant backpacks to schoolchildren, and noted more than 107 school shootings have occurred in the United States since the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012 in Connecticut.

The vest goes across Tess’s chest and sides, Graf said.

He said Tess will wear the vest whenever the dog is deployed.

The vest weighs 2.5 pounds and is not a burden on Tess’s 65-pound body.

“It provides her a bit of protection,” Graf said.

He said the donation of the vest makes it possible for WCSO to spend the money instead on equipment.

Meanwhile, Williams said she is continuing to raise money to buy the vests. She said her organizations accepts donations through GoFundme.com.

Williams said she also will raise money during the Dogtown Half Marathon from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Staheli Family Farm, 3400 Washington Field Road, Washington City.

Follow Ken Hedler, @keninDixie2014.