By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Leah Beale of Oklahoma City doesn’t know the police K-9 Ice, or his handler, officer Ken Groat, but that didn’t prevent her from buying the K-9 officer an estimated $2,000 bullet- and stab-proof vest.
“I’m a big dog lover,” Beale said, adding that she heard of a K-9 officer stabbed to death in her hometown and read about how the handler’s young daughter was so distraught.
“She loved the dog,” Beale read. “I was just so sad to read that.”
Beale immediately got online to buy vests.
“I wanted to buy vests for other dogs, so that wouldn’t happen to them,” Beale said.
She called the police station, but they couldn’t take individual donations for the gear. So she researched further to find the organization providing the vests.
In 2014, Beale bought two vests, and this year she purchased four, which were distributed through Vested Interest in K9’s Inc.
“I’m going to keep it up as long as the money holds out,” she said.
Czech Republic-born Ice is expected to get his new vest within two to three months, embroidered “In memory of K9 Kye Oklahoma City Police Dept.”
Kye was stabbed during a burglary in August 2014. Kye’s partner, Sgt. Ryan Stark, tried to separate the K-9 and the suspect. The suspect was killed by Stark during the robbery attempt.
Vested Interest in K9’s is a non-profit, established in 2009, to aid law enforcement agencies with lifesaving body armor for their four-legged K9 officers. Since birth, the organization has provided more than 1,700 protective vests in 49 states via private and corporate donations. Such vests cost more than $1.6 million.
Police Department officials applied for a grant for Ice’s vest via the Vested Interest website, said the company’s owner and founder Sandy Marcal. Marcal said Beale has been a “tremendous asset” to the organization.
The program is available to dogs actively serving the U.S. law enforcement. This includes new K9 graduates and those with expired vests, older than five years.
Police Chief Dan Grant said he and the department are thankful for the donation.
Beale and her husband own a rescue dog, Millie. While Millie was free, Beale’s husband said she was anything but free because they spoil the dog so much.
“My husband likes to say, ‘She is the most expensive free dog we’ve ever had,’” Beale said.
For more information about the program or to donate, call 508-824-6978 or go to www.vik9s.org.
(Tereasa Nims can be reached at email@example.com.)