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Protecting Those Who Protect Us

The Johnson’s generous grant of $27,600 enabled the Richland County Sheriff’s Department to purchase 12 vests for the remainder of the K-9 Unit. Prior to their gift, the department had received donations in memory of Fargo from others in the community to purchase four vests.

“When Fargo died, it exposed this critical need,” Nick said. “Vests can’t totally protect them, but the dogs will be much safer. We were happy to do it.”

The K9 Storm vests, which are guaranteed for the life of the dog, are complete with full, wrap-around Kevlar panel inside to provide the unit with top protection. Jim and Glori Slater of KP Storm Inc. flew from Canada to do a custom fitting for the entire unit.

“Words can’t describe how much we appreciate this gift,” Captain Steve Hair says. “The Johnsons were so generous and it is incredible that all of our dogs will be taken care of.”

The dogs and their respective officers are not only partners; they are family. After a dog is trained and assigned to an officer, the pair remains together day and night. The dogs live at home with their officers, many of whom have families and young children. The dogs work for at least five years, and when they retire, they go home to live with their handlers.

“When we hear people say, ‘It’s just a dog,’ they don’t understand,” Steve continues.

These canines are anything but “regular.” Along with the ability to apprehend felons, locate missing persons and detect explosive devices, they accompany their handlers to kindergarten classes for special presentations. To the delight and gratitude of the K-9 unit, the Johnsons understand that every four-legged public servant should be well-protected.