Witness to K9 Shooting Dedicates Career to Providing Dog Vests
Palo Alto police K-9 Ilan wears his brand-new bulletproof and stab-proof vest inside Palo Alto City Council Chambers on Tuesday April 13, 2010. Ilan's handler is Palo Alto police Officer Duane Tannock. The vest was given to Ilan by VEST 'N P.D.P., a nonpr
San Jose Mercury News via YellowBrix
April 14, 2010
PALO ALTO – The next time Aris dashes into a building on the heels of a bad guy, he won’t be naked.
Aris and his two fellow Palo Alto police dogs, Amigo and Ilan, were presented Tuesday with bulletproof vests emblazoned with their names. They were the latest beneficiaries of Vest ’N P.D.P., a nonprofit program run by Susie Jean, a Socorro, N.M., woman who has dedicated her career to protecting K-9s since she saw one shot on a television news program eight years ago.
Jean made the trip to Palo Alto City Hall at her own expense to present the vests to the three Palo Alto dogs and one from the police department of the East Bay Regional Park District.
Palo Alto officers said they had coveted the vests for years but couldn’t afford them at retail prices of more than $1,500 each. Last fall, dog-loving police dispatcher Erika Spencer thought to write to Jean, who raises money from donors around the country and buys the vests at a nonprofit discount rate of $700 apiece.
Jean said she has seen a flood of donations in the past year, thanks in part to articles about her in American Profile magazine and the National Enquirer. That allowed her to shorten her waiting list and grant Palo Alto’s request within a few months. Over the years, she has also bought vests for dogs in Castro Valley and Walnut Creek.
On Tuesday afternoon, Aris bounded up to Jean as she stood at the podium in council chambers. As she held out his vest, he jumped up and put his paws on it, then turned and licked the face of his handler, Officer Tony Becker.
“He’s a really smart dog,” Becker said after the ceremony. He told of an incident a year or two ago in which Aris hunted down an attempted murder suspect in a mutual aid operation by Palo Alto police in Menlo Park. A family came home to find their house burglarized, and Aris found the suspect still there, hiding in a closet.
Part of the value of police dogs is that they dash boldly into dangerous situations ahead of their human counterparts, Becker said. But they’re not immune to harm, and dogs are sometimes wounded or killed by criminals determined not to be caught. Becker said he’ll feel better knowing Aris now has armor of his own.
A former salon owner, Jean started looking into canine protective gear after she saw a K-9 fatally shot on a television newscast. She had recently lost her two beloved German shepherds to cancer and decided to do what she could to protect their crime-fighting brethren.
Since then, she has purchased some 500 vests for dogs in 39 states, Jean said. She couldn’t say exactly how many dogs her vests have saved. But she related a recent anecdote in which a K-9 took a brutal kick to the chest from a 6-foot-7 suspect on the run in the woods of Indiana. A vet later said the blow would likely have been fatal if not for the vest.
No Palo Alto police dog has ever died in the line of duty, said Acting Sgt. Alex Afanasiev, supervisor of the department’s canine unit. He said the vests should help ensure that none does.
New officers sworn in
After the dogs had their day, the Palo Alto Police Department swore in three new human officers at Tuesday’s ceremony at City Hall.
Capt. Mark Venable, head of the patrol division, pinned badges on Paul Burgio, Cynthia Kono and Jeremy Schmidt as friends, family members and fellow Palo Alto officers looked on.
Kono comes to the department after six years with the San Jose Police Department, while Burgio transferred from San Diego. Schmidt recently graduated from the police academy after a previous career as a real estate broker.
The department also promoted a non-sworn member, Karen McAdams, from court liaison to parking manager.