K9s dressed to the nines

Last Updated on March 26, 2022 2:53 pm

BOONE – The long arm of the paw is better prepared for duty now, thanks in part to local Realtors in the High Country area.

The High Country Association of Realtors (HCAR) recently worked with members of the 2017 Watauga County Leadership Academy class to buy new uniforms for the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office K9 units.

The K9 officers now head to work in armored vests similar to the protective gear of their fellow deputies.

“What many citizens don't know is that law enforcement K9s play a major role in protecting the lives of their handlers and other officers responding to most calls,” said Skip Wood, 2017 president of the HCAR, who helped in the fundraising effort. “Some of those calls could pose a threat to officer safety including building searches, large demonstrations, and drug and explosives detection, to name a few.”

Wood became aware of the need for better K9 protection when he attended the 2017 Watauga County Leadership Academy. The Academy, which has a new class every year, features a series of day-long sessions during which class members meet with local leaders to learn about different leadership concepts and how area businesses operate. This includes Town of Boone and Watauga County facilities, as well as offices at Appalachian State University, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Appalachian Health Care and Blue Ridge Energies.

Wood said the Academy’s goal is give its members “a broad knowledge base of how we’re served as well as developing interaction with our local leaders.”

One of the last sessions Wood attended that year was at the Watauga County Law Enforcement Center.

“We toured the communications center and the jail facility before ending the tour with a K9 demonstration put on by Deputy Lieutenant Wes Hawkins,” said Wood. “Based on my previous 30 years of law enforcement experience in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia, I saw that the K9s were not outfitted with protective armor, much like their handlers have.”

Wood asked about the disparity, and was told K9 ballistic protection was not provided in the Sheriff's budget. Resources such as that would have to come from other sources, like private contributions.

David Jackson, the current President and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, was present at the meeting and overheard the conversation. He asked Hawkins what it would cost to outfit the office’s K9 officers. Wood said “this led to our class challenge to come up with enough money for the three K9s of the Sheriff's department.”

The HCAR donated money for one vest and the Academy class members came up with funds for the other two. Jackson soon delivered a check to the Sheriff's department and the K9 protective armor was received about 12 months later.

“The High Country Association of Realtors is proud to have been involved in this valuable contribution to our local law enforcement agency,” said Wood. “The K9s work tirelessly in their role to serve and protect.”

The HCAR represents licensed real estate professionals active within Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties, and annual donates time and resources to organizations throughout the region. The HCAR works to unite local Realtors with real estate professionals in the community for the benefit of Realtors and their clients.

Watauga County K9 officer in new vest.
Some of the members of the 2017 Watauga County Leadership Academy, who raised funds for new armored vests for the K9 officers of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.


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