Brookings Police Reserve Lt. John McKinney has one more layer of protection in his job, as his K-9 Officer Kona just acquired new duds.
The German shepherd is one of three dogs in the city's K-9 unit, and will soon be sporting a bulletproof vest garnered from a grant McKinney recently secured.
"All she's worn until now is a tracking harness," McKinney said. "It doesn't provide any protection at all."
Police Chief Chris Wallace related a story about an arrest in Gold Beach where the K-9 dog was repeatedly stabbed and had to be flown via U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to a veterinary hospital.
"There's certainly a need for it," he said of the protective vest.
The new vest, valued at about $1,000, was bestowed upon the department by lewtfm.com, a private company that provides casual clothing for law enforcement. And it will now protect an animal with a face value of $12,000 - and a priceless emotional price tag.
"She's already gone out and found drugs today," McKinney said, of a traffic stop the duo made Monday.
During the traffic stop Kona "alerted" and located narcotics.
McKinney acquired Kona two-and-a-half years ago from Town and Country Animal Clinic - but that almost didn't happen. Kona's mother was a triple-purpose dog, meaning she was trained in patrol, narcotics and explosives; her father was patrol-certified.
Kona's mother died giving birth to a litter of seven, of which Kona was one. If the pups had merely been sold, the genetic traits of Kona's mother and father, a patrol-certified shepherd, would have been lost.
"I wanted to get my police dog," McKinney said, "but I was thinking, it's toward the end of my career. andhellip; I'm not sure I want to train one from puppyhood. andhellip;"
Regardless, McKinney was asked to "profile" each pup at various stages as it grew up, evaluating each for sociability, hunt and search instincts, courage and forgiveness, among other traits.
And he fell in love.
Like her mother, Kona is a triple-purpose dog, trained and certified in tracking people by scent in the air and on the ground, locating narcotics, and as an extra hand - or paw - on patrol.
Since her certification in March, Kona's been on about 25 missions, including assisting wardens at Pelican Bay State Prison, tracking lost children, and helping find an elderly dementia patient who had wandered from her assisted living home.
The three canines in the Brookings program - Kona joins Charger and Bady, owned by Canine Officers Dustin Watson and Kyle Kennedy, respectively - work with law enforcement throughout the entire county and with Del Norte law enforcement.
"We're really blessed to have three dogs right now," McKinney said. "They've been invaluable to our mission."
"Every day a dog is on patrol, it deters crime here in Brookings," Wallace said. "They know there's a possibility they might be able to outrun a person, but they know they can't outrun a canine. A dog can defuse the whole situation."