Deputy Dave Ashby and Vesta (left), are photgraphed with Sgt. Tina Nast and Avery Tuesday as the officers trained the dogs to wear their new bullet/stab protective vests. The $950 vests were received through local donations. <br>Special to the EagleHerald
Deputy Dave Ashby and Vesta (left), are photgraphed with Sgt. Tina Nast and Avery Tuesday as the officers trained the dogs to wear their new bullet/stab protective vests. The $950 vests were received through local donations.
Special to the EagleHerald
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MENOMINEE - The Menominee County Sheriff's Department's K-9 officers are sporting a new look these days - protective vests.

Both dogs, Avery and Vesta, received their new bullet/stab protective vests through individual donations, said Sgt. Tina Nast, who works with and trains Avery, a drug dog.

Vesta, a dual-purpose K-9, is partnered with Deputy Dave Ashby, who patrols the northern part of Menominee County.

Nast told the EagleHerald that the vests are expensive and heavy - weighing about 4 pounds each. Both dogs are relatively new to service and need special training to wear the vests.

"Vests like these have been around for a long time," Nast said. "We just got them last week, so both dogs are getting used to them. They do walk a little funny in them right now."

Nast, who is often called to drug searches in the area which is under control of law enforcement, said she would not put the vest on Avery all the time.

But if Nast needs a vest, Avery will, too.

"When we got them last Thursday, we put them on (the dogs) to get them used to the weight, and we walked them around the jail," she said. They repeated the training Tuesday at the jail.

Release snaps allow the handlers to put the vests in place, and the vests protect the dogs' vital organs in the main part of their bodies.

With the heat of summer, Ashby and Nast will take their time getting the dogs accustomed to the new vests and will remove them if the dogs get heated.

Each vest costs $950, and are made available to law enforcement free of charge through a nonprofit organization called Vested Interest in K9s Inc.

Nast and Ashby sought donations through friends and social media, and were lucky enough to find sponsors.

For Avery, the money came from Wendy Hafeman-Teske, who knows Nast and saw her request.

"My husband Ben and I thought it was one of those things we felt we needed to (support), something my parents would have given money to," she said Friday.

Hafeman-Teske's parents, the late Rudy and Else Hafeman, supported many causes in their lives - and would have seen the merit in this, she said.

"I've known Tina since she was a little girl and when I saw the information on Facebook, I contacted her. Even in a small town, officers and their dogs put their lives on the line," Hafeman-Teske said.

"Hopefully, they'll never get to the point the vest will come into use," she said.

Gregg Anderson, a Hannahville police officer and area businessman, donated the $950 for Vesta.

"As a police officer in Hannahville, it took seven years of begging and borrowing to gets a state-of-the-art firearm range built," he said Friday.

"When I saw on Facebook Dave was asking friends for $10 each, I thought 'I'm in law enforcement and this dog helps us.' So I did the $10 donation times 95."

Anderson said having his own business, Great Lakes Leather Works in Gladstone, Mich., allowed him to have the funds to contribute.

"I knew I could do this, and I knew how Dave felt looking for donations," he said.

Nast said the donations were made directly to Vested Interest in K9s Inc., but earmarked for Menominee County's K-9s. The sheriff's department still had to fill out the grant paperwork to receive the vest.

Vested Interest in K9s Inc. is located in East Taunton, Mass., and has been providing protective vests to law enforcement dogs across the country since 2009. More information is available at its website, http://www.vik9s.org, or on Facebook.

Editor's note: An official from Vested Interest in K9s Inc. told us after the story was published that the vests weight 4 pounds, not 40 pounds, as was published in the EagleHerald Aug. 27.