Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — After reading a story about a wounded police dog that died in South Carolina, Telka Weant started making calls.
She called the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and the Salisbury Police department to see if their canine units had bulletproof vests.
“I thought, ‘They don’t have vests and our men have vests,’ and I checked on that too, to make sure our men had bulletproof vests,” the Salisbury woman said.
Salisbury Police told her they were covered, but the Sheriff’s Office said out of their six dogs, two had not yet been outfitted.
So Weant got them outfitted, at a cost of $2,000.
Rowan County Sheriff’s Office Capt. John Sifford said the vests are expensive and the department is grateful for the contribution.
“The cost of the canine vest was a little over a $1,000 each, and that’s just about double what a vest would cost for an officer,” Sifford said. “Certainly our intention was to have our canines outfitted.”
Sifford said the two dogs that did not have vests were the last to be trained.
And a stretched budget wasn’t helping.
“You have to make sure the officers are covered first before we can cover the canine, so it was greatly appreciated,” Sifford said of Weant’s gift.
Weant has donated to other animal-related organizations, she said, but she has a special appreciation for law enforcement and wanted to give toward that aspect after reading the story.
Canines “are in a situation a lot of times in which there is gunfire or knives,” Weant said. “They’re in dangerous spots sometimes. They just needed to be protected, just like our service people are.”
The vests are ballistic- and knife- proof, Sifford said.
Sgt. Wes Smith, who handles Kilo, a chocolate Labrador, met Weant on Wednesday to show off the new vest.
Weant said Kilo wasn’t crazy about it.
“He had not had that on him before. He was kind of leery of it,” she said laughing.
The Sheriff’s Office has been fortunate over the years to have never had a canine injured in the field, Sifford said.
Still, he said, department officials are “very appreciative that a citizen would step up and assist us like that.”
Now they’re hoping that becomes a tradition.