Leander FD K9 will soon have custom bulletproof vest thanks to donation

The Leander Fire Department's K9, Dixie, will soon receive a bullet and stab protective vest thanks to a donation from the nonprofit Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. 

Dixie is a four-year-old bloodhound. K9 handler and Fire Inspector Carroll Cubit says the K9 program started four years ago. They had some missing persons calls and asked volunteer K9 groups to help. Cubit got the idea of getting a K9, and after doing some research, they got Dixie. She's been on about 40 calls since the program started. 

Dixie can track missing persons or suspects in cases from the police department. Cubit says bloodhounds are good at tracking.

"She helps assist when their dog is not available or if they don't want their dog to track a suspect that's not aggressive. Then they call me out, and we come out and track them," he said.

The emergency management team saw the nonprofit "Vested Interest in K9s," which has donated more than 5,627 vests to K9s across the country. 

Agencies apply for vests. The vests are custom-made and National Institute for Justice-certified. They're just like human vests but dog-sized.

The nonprofit also provides Narcan kits, medical insurance and medical kits for K9s.

"As programs get started to go, it's hard for departments to budget and get all this stuff for your K9, so it gets pretty expensive. To have organizations out there to say, 'hey, we're going to help you.' That's huge," Cubit said.

Vested Interest in K9s founder Sandy Marcal wanted to help working dogs.

"They are often times the first one sent into the line of duty, and I was concerned about their safety," she said. "It fills my heart. I don't think anything else has filled my heart the way this has."

Soon, Dixie will have her own body armor, which is a sigh of relief for Cubit. 

"It's always in the back of my mind, like she doesn't have any protection. I got protection but she doesn't. Trying to hold that emotion... so she does her job, that's the hardest thing. Now, a huge weight lifted off," Cubit said.

Dixie’s vest is sponsored by Suzanne Sammut of Pawleys Island, SC. Dixie's vest is expected to be delivered in about eight weeks. 

For more information or if you'd like to donate or volunteer, click here or call 508-824-6978, or mail to P.O. Box 9, East Taunton, MA 02718.