The importance of a tactical vest for not only human police officers, but also their K-9 partners, rose to the forefront of Bay Area residents’ minds after the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety’s K-9 Jax was stabbed to death last Halloween.
The Los Altos Police Department doesn’t want to see its new K-9, Bo, suffer a similar fate and now – with help from the community – has raised enough money to buy a vest to protect the nearly 2-year-old German shepherd.
Los Altos resident Gary Kalbach donated nearly half of the $3,024 needed to buy the vest. He vowed to match up to $1,400 in contributions raised through a GoFundMe page set up in Bo’s name. That amount was reached last week.
Kalbach lost his German shepherd, Jazz, in February and described himself as an “enthusiastic LAPD supporter.” He spent time with Bo before the dog joined the force in April, attending training at Tyson Kennels in Menlo Park every Saturday.
“I honestly have used the interaction as a substitute for my own dog,” Kalbach said.
The longtime resident noted that a year ago, he began encouraging Police Chief Andy Galea to replace K-9 Lord, who retired the year prior.
Galea didn’t need much convincing, noting that a K-9 is a “regional asset.” They are not always on duty, he added, so local agencies often borrow each other’s dogs when needed.
Almost immediately after Bo’s partner Officer Kelli Janda selected him, local residents asked how they could help out with the dog. The topic of vests came up, and residents partnered with the foundation’s Cover Your K9 project, an effort to secure funding for a vest that is not only bulletproof, but also blade-proof.
It was not in the city’s budget, however – and Kalbach knew it. He’s on the Los Altos Financial Commission, which provides residents’ input to the city council and staff on fiscal policies.
The Police and Working K-9 Foundation – a nonprofit organization devoted to ensuring that dogs entering dangerous environments to protect their officers are safe from harm, specifically through protective vests – wasn’t able to help right away, either. The foundation’s annual fundraiser for Bay Area K-9s isn’t scheduled until mid-July, and Kalbach said the Los Altos Police Department was not on the top of the preference list.
That led to the GoFundMe page, launched by Police and Working K9 Foundation president Louise Tully June 13. Beyond Kalbach’s contributions, money primarily came from 18 other Los Altos disaster service workers, including members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Block Action Teams and the Community Emergency Response Team. The Los Altos Chamber of Commerce also donated.
It will take approximately eight weeks for Bo to get his vest, as it is a custom fit, according to Tully.
Tully said the nonprofit has helped Los Altos police for several years, including through a class that Officer Janda and Bo attended shortly after Bo was hired on. That eight-hour course training was designed to teach Janda how to care for Bo if anything was to happen to him. The officer was sent home with a kit of $300 worth of “comprehensive equipment” for several types of injuries police dogs are subject to on a regular basis, such as wounds or poisoning, Tully said.
After intensive training, Bo is now taking on tasks like building searches and goes into places that Galea described, “would quite honestly be hazardous to officers.” He is used most often for tracking, such as looking for missing juveniles or adults, the chief said.
Galea said he is appreciative of how supportive the community has been of the program as a whole. Police dogs tend to be the best ambassador for the agency, Galea said, and Bo is no exception.
“Probably not even a month after Lord left, people were asking if we were getting another dog, when that was going to be,” the chief said. “We do a lot of presentations, and Bo is typically the star of the show.”
To contribute to funding vests for other local agencies’ K-9s, visit coveryourk9.com/coveryourk9home.html.