Protecting pooches

Published 12:07 am Saturday, February 28, 2009

One glance at an insert in The Andalusia Star-News put Jamilla Hudson on a mission.

Her goal? To outfit every police dog with a lifesaving bulletproof vest, but she needs local help to achieve that goal.

“There was this story in American Profile — that thing that comes in (The Star-News),” Hudson said. “I didn’t think much about it at the time, but for some reason, I didn’t throw it away. I just put it to the side. I was going through some stuff the other day and saw it.”

“It” was the cover story in the publication’s Feb. 14 edition entitled “Protecting K-9 Cops,” which told the story of New Mexico resident Susie Jean and her non-profit organization Vest ‘N P.D.P. (Police Dog Protection). Since 2002, the organization has outfitted more than 260 vests for police dogs across the nation.

Hudson hopes to increase that number by six in the coming months, she said.

“I was talking to my 7-year-old son, Cade, and asked him if we should get one for the K-9 dog in Opp,” she said. “So I went to talk to (Opp’s) Chief (Nickey) Carnley Monday. He thought it was a good idea and said why not go countywide? Well, I thought that was a great idea but how the question then was how do we raise the money?”

Most police departments don’t have the money to equip their K-9 counterparts with bulletproof vests. At $700 each, it will cost more than $4,000 to purchase vests for Seno and Kas of the Covington County Sheriff’s Office, Klod and Nero of the Andalusia Police Department, Vega of the Opp Police Department and Tracker, a volunteer member of the CCSO Sheriff’s Posse.

“Everyone I t­alked to has been very responsive of the idea,” Hudson said. “I was even able to get Susie Jean on the phone. She was very encouraging. She said as of now, she has a waiting list of 242 requests and only 24 vests. She does all of her own fund-raising. I told her that my goal was to raise the funds to purchase six vests and she said she would be happy to help me make that happen.”

“I just love animals, and it touched me that (Jean) would do something like this,” she said. “I just thought, maybe I could help our dogs, too. They don’t know they’re putting themselves in danger. When they go into that house or wherever, they’re just doing what they’re trained to do — with no hesitation.”

Ireland, who met Hudson for the first time Friday, said it’s up to each dog’s handler to make sure they are protected from harm while on the job. Ireland’s K-9 partner is Kas.

“We’ve been to plenty of situations where we had to go into a house or out in a woodline looking for someone,” he said. “We never know when someone is out there with a gun waiting to open fire.

“These animals are our partners,” he said. “If something was to happen to them, it would be devastating. It doesn’t matter that they’re not human.”

Hudson has placed donation jars at Countryside Animal Clinic and Boothe Veterinary Clinic in Opp and the flea market next door, and at Jones Veterinary Hospital and Andalusia Animal Clinic in Andalusia.

“Our departments can’t fund (the vests),” Ireland said. “So, we really appreciate the thought.”

Any one that would like to have a jar placed in their business or a civic group who would like to hear more information is asked to call Hudson at 334-493-7646.

Tax deductible donations can also be mailed to 18600 Grace Lane, Opp, AL 36467. Hudson asked that checks be made payable to Vestsnp.d.p., and “Opp/Andalusia/ Covington County police” written on the memo line.

“That way, all the money that is sent in goes to our dogs,” she said.