Funds raised to help AIDS patients' pets, buy vests for K-9s
By Loren Watson
News Staff Writer

SUDBURY - Dog lovers have launched a fund-raising drive to buy bullet-proof vests for police dogs
in Massachusetts.

Kathy Hinds and her 11-year-old daughter, Lisa, helped start the local campaign. The East Walpole
pair have teamed up to support Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog, an organization which seeks to provide
police dogs with bullet- and stab-proof vests.

 Erny Isabelle, manager of Especially for Pets in Sudbury, and the managers of the other stores in
Wayland, Newton and Acton have been working on similar community drives for pets.

Over the past three months, Isabelle and fellow managers Amy Lord and Lib DiMarco raised more
than $3,000 for Phinney's Friends, an organization that cares for the pets of people with AIDS.

Lord and DiMarco have now set their sights on Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog.

Isabelle, who, like her colleagues, has a big soft spot in her heart for animals, said the need was
obvious. "With animals, they are so unconditional. How can you let them down? If these dogs put
their lives on the line for us, why not give them the protection they need?" she said.

Hinds said she and her daughter got involved with the program when Lisa heard about a California
girl whose sympathy for a New Jersey police dog killed in the line of duty launched the national

With the support of fund-raisers such as that of Especially for Pets, Hinds said by the end of next
month, 18 out of 26 police dogs of the Massachusetts State Police will be outfitted with protective
vests. But they have a long way to go, she said.

A total of 154 out of the state's 235 active duty police dogs do their jobs without that protection,
Hinds said. Police dogs are given the rank of officer, she said, but "true, ranking officers are given
bullet-proof vests."

Captain Craig Davis of the Framingham Police Department said the department has recently added
two police dogs to their force. Both dogs have vests, which help protect the dogs from bullets, stab
wounds and blunt-force trauma, he said.

One of those vests, for the German Shepard, Zack, was donated by Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog, Hinds

Neither of the dogs, still in training, has started active duty, Davis said.

The dogs receive extensive training that can last more than a year. Many of the jobs they perform,
which include sniffing out narcotics, fugitives, and missing children, can be extremely dangerous.

"They can conduct building searches, if someone is hiding in a building," Davis said. "A dog can
find a person who is hiding much better than an officer can, because of their sense of hearing and
smell. We'll send a dog into a place where we don't want to go."

The dogs protect their human partners from entering into hazardous situations, and are also trained
to protect them from direct attack, he said.

Because of this, "anything we can do to help the dog, we're almost obligated to do," he said.

Hinds said state and federal funding cover the expense of purchasing, training and providing
veterinary care for the canines, but they don't provide money for vests, which cost about $650 each.

Isabelle hopes they will be able to raise about $3,000 for Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog, she said. "That
could be five vests," she said.

Much of the funding they collect often comes from small donations. The staff at Especially for Pets
has always provided regular nail clipping and grinding services - important for the health and
comfort of animals - for free. They ask customers to leave a donation for the service if possible, to
give to the many philanthropic activities, such as supporting animal shelters, the stores have been
involved with for years.

But the Especially for Pets managers wanted to try to make a bigger difference, Isabelle said. With
this drive, they have asked customers to give a little more, if they can.

When we were raising funds for Phinney's Friends, people who usually gave between $2 and $6
often increased their gift by $4.

Nancy McElwaine, who directs Phinney's Friends and came by Especially for Pets in Sudbury
Thursday to pick up the fund-raising check for $3,410 said the small gifts make the difference.

"That's how we make it every single day," she said. McElwaine arrived in the store with Shay Nay
Nay, a dog she adopted from a man she helped while he was ill with AIDS.

Shay Nay Nay's family was very poor, but the father and dog were so close, they could not bear to
separate the two. McElwaine's organization, which is run entirely through donations, helped feed
and care for the dog so the family could keep her.

Phinney's Friends also provides temporary and permanent loving homes to animals when their
owners need hospitalization or die.

Before Shay Nay Nay's owner died, he asked McElwaine, who had personally provided care for the
dog and bonded with Shay Nay Nay, whether she would adopt his beloved pet when he died.

Sometimes people, hearing about the drive and its cause, are moved to give more, Isabelle said.
During Phinney's Friends fundraiser, two business people from Jordan's Furniture and Donovan's
Electric spontaneously came into the store after hearing about their efforts and gave checks for $100
and $200, respectively.

The managers are excited they will have the chance to meet, arranged through Vest-a-Dog, some of
the state's police dogs at the end of the drive. "It's pretty incredible to see a police dog in action,"
Isabelle said. "If we are even able to save one dog, that will make it all worthwhile."

Neither the Sudbury, Wayland, or Weston police departments have canines on their force. Those
communities, however, have police dog coverage if needed through the state police, county
sheriff's departments that do have dogs.