- Associated Press - Sunday, November 12, 2017

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (AP) - Like other officers of the law, the dogs of K-9 units need specialized equipment that helps keep them safe while performing hazardous duties, so Bluefield’s business community has stepped up and paid for customized defense.

Generous donors have helped the Bluefield Police Department’s K-9 dogs by providing the money needed to give each of them a new customized protective vest.

K-9 dogs Thor, Ace and Nico now have new vests which better suit their needs, Sgt. B.W. Copenhaver said. He demonstrated one of the new vests by putting it on his K-9 partner, Thor. Each vest, tailored to the dog now wearing it, cost approximately $2,000 apiece.

“This (donations) allowed us to get three vests for our dogs,” Copenhaver said. “We’re going to be able to get a fourth vest for another dog. He’s in training right now, and should be ready to go in February.”

Unlike other vests, the new protective gear is lighter and more flexible, he added. Other available K-9 vests are often too heavy for the dogs; exercises with the older vests showed that the dogs had to carry too much weight, but Bluefield’s K-9s can wear these new vests for an entire 12-hour shift.

The manufacturer’s representatives visited the department to measure each K-9, then returned later returned to give the dogs a trial fit and see if any adjustments had to be made. The vests offer good ballistic protection and they’re resistant to cutting, plus the dogs are less likely to overheat in them, Copenhaver said.

Contributors including the Bill Cole Auto Mall, Citizens Building and Supply Center, Cole Chevrolet-Cadillac, Cole Harley Davidson, Douglas Equipment, Grant’s Supermarket, Dickie and Julie Johnson, K&K; Music Company, Mercer Funeral Home, and the firm of Brewster, Morhous & Cameron provided the necessary funds for the vests.

“It’s a big expense, so for them to come up and say we want to do this for our dogs is awesome,” Copenhaver said. “We’ve been blessed. Every time we’ve needed something for the dogs, they’ve stepped up.”

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Information from: Bluefield Daily Telegraph, http://www.bdtonline.com

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