PROTECTING OFFICER COLLIN

March 28, 2002 12:00 am
NEW UNIFORM: Members of the Faith Lutheran Churchs confirmation class, including Lindsay Lankford and Tami Gillies, raised donations to purchase a Kevlar protective vest for Collin, Union Countys drug dog. Deputy Cindy Wyatt, Collins new partner, helped Collin model the vest. (THE OBSERVER/T.L. PETERSEN).
NEW UNIFORM: Members of the Faith Lutheran Churchs confirmation class, including Lindsay Lankford and Tami Gillies, raised donations to purchase a Kevlar protective vest for Collin, Union Countys drug dog. Deputy Cindy Wyatt, Collins new partner, helped Collin model the vest. (THE OBSERVER/T.L. PETERSEN).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Collin wasnt too sure about the new uniform going on over his head.

But the Union County drug search K-9 officer rapidly adjusted. Accepting a few head scratches and admiring comments from those responsible for the protective vest certainly didnt hurt the German shepherds feelings.

Lindsay Lankford, 12, and Tami Gillies, 12, both members of the Faith Lutheran Church confirmation class, admired Collin and his new body armor.

Seeing Collin wearing his vest was visible proof that they had accomplished their goal.

The girls, along with class members Leah Van Laarhoven and Craig Moschkau, collected donations for the specialized $675 police-dog vest from area businesses and organizations.

Lindsay said the group was somewhat intimidated by the idea of having to raise so much money, but then found they were able to put together enough donations in about a month.

I came up with the idea, Lindsay said. I read an article about a girl in California. She started the program (of raising money for protective vests for canine officers) because she heard about a dog that got shot in the line of duty.

The girl, Lindsay added, has raised money for dozens of the K-9 body armor vests.

The vest, which covers the dogs back, sides and much of the chest, is made of the same Kevlar material that protects police officers and deputies.

Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver, watching the vest being put on the dog, said Collin will wear the vest when he is sent ahead of officers into buildings on searches or in other hazardous situations.

The vest can be warm, as human officers attest, so the dog will only wear it when the situation could be dangerous.

The vest is designed to protect the dog from bullets or knives.

For the churchs confirmation class, the dog-vest project is far bigger than what other classes have taken on, explained Pastor Wilfred Nitz.

A community service project is part of the two-year confirmation course, Nitz said, wondering what the group will do next year, during its second year.

Were proud of what they did, said Deputy Cindy Wyatt, Collins new handler, as she watched the dog accept friendly pats from the girls.

He was more upset about the bath, Wyatt confessed about getting Collin ready for his new gear.

Its a neat thing you kids did, Oliver added. Hes (Collin) just like another officer to us.

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