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A dogged pursuit

Girl leads drive to protect police K-9s

Girl leads drive to protect police K-9s

June 20, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

When 10-year-old Emily Bolton reached her goal of raising enough money for bulletproof vests for all 10 of Washington County's K-9s, she decided to keep going until no police dog in the state was unprotected.

"I only need to collect another $1,200," she said Tuesday.

The youngster's efforts have brought in $11,300 through a few large and many small contributions from around the community and beyond. She hopes to wind up the drive by the end of the month.

For $7,500, vests can be purchased for the remaining 15 unprotected Maryland State Police K-9s around the state.

When she started out, the Smithsburg Middle School sixth-grader had planned to raise $5,000, but the fund drive took off.

One of the K-9s that received a vest thanks to Emily's efforts is Rex, a 51/2-year-old German shepherd who is the partner of Cpl. R.W. Poffenberger at the state police barracks in Hagerstown.

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Poffenberger said the vests protect dogs against just about anything.

"They have the same ballistic strength that our own bulletproof vests have," Poffenberger said. He said the vests, which cost $500 each, also can deflect sharp objects such as knives or metal and glass encountered during searches.

Emily, an aspiring veterinarian, said she is glad that so many dogs will be protected. She said she enjoyed meeting many of the dogs from Hagerstown City Police, state police and the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Emily and her father, Chris Bolton, said notes have come from many of the people who donated money for the cause. Some money and notes came from as far away as Michigan.

"We learned that three cousins were visiting in Boonsboro when the first story about Emily ran in the newspaper and they decided to give the money they got for their birthdays to Emily's project," said Chris Bolton.

Emily got the idea last fall from a story she read in "Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul." It was a story about a girl in San Diego who raised money for K-9 vests after reading about a police dog that had been shot and killed in the line of duty, Emily said.

Chris Bolton said he and his wife, JoAnn, couldn't be more proud of Emily. This project has broadened her horizons to many possibilities, he said.

"She thought if every kid would pick up a project like this, we could really do something in this country," said Chris Bolton.

Poffenberger said he hopes someone takes up that challenge. He said he would welcome someone adopting the idea of booties for the K-9s as a project for some enterprising young person.

"As it is now, I pick Rex up and carry him over broken glass when we are working ... booties like they had on the search dogs at the World Trade Center would be nice," Poffenberger said.

Rex is a patrol dog used for protection, crowd control, building searches and tracking.

Donation boxes can be found at local animal hospitals. Donations can be mailed to the Vest-A-Dog account at F&M Bank, P.O. Box 919, Hagerstown, MD 21741-0919.

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