Two 12-year-olds from Marblehead teamed up this fall to raise $735 to buy a new bullet-protective vest for Falco, the lone K-9.
Allison Kapoll and Tyler Merullo, both seventh-graders at Veterans Middle School in Marblehead, decided to help replace the German Shepherd's vest after watching a K-9 demonstration with Falco's partner Officer Justin Ellenton during a safety day event at Endicott Park earlier this year. The friends had talked about vesting a dog through the non-profit volunteer agency Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog and the prime opportunity presented itself.
Allison and Tyler raised $150 that first day at , just asking onlookers at the event to support their charitable cause and received a single donation that doubled their funds.
Tyler, speaking before the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night, said he and Allison simply saw a need and acted on it.
"We're glad to be able to provide [the vest]," he said.
Kathy Hinds, the president of Mass. Vest-a-Dog, appeared with Allison, Tyler, his mother, Police Chief Neil Ouellette and Ellenton before selectmen to announce the news. Falco waited outside, but could be heard barking from the main lobby of at one point later in the meeting – no doubt offering his own happy thanks.
Selectmen lauded the youngsters' philanthropic efforts.
"You're sharing the wealth around the North Shore," said Selectman Bill Clark, speaking figuratively. He encouraged the pair to continue in future charitable and civic endeavors.
The safety warranty of Falco's vest, made up of 30-50 protective layers, expires after five years – this March, which is when the canine will get the replacement vest, just in time, Hinds said. The original vest was donated as well.
Through numerous fundraising efforts, including donations from customers at Steve's Quality Market in Salem (the Kapoll's family business), the young do-gooders are now not only able to buy a new vest for Falco, but also one for a canine in the Essex County Sheriff's Department. They are working toward a third vest now, which will protect a second K-9 in the sheriff's department.
Hinds pointed out that Falco will never have to work a day without access to an unexpired vest, which isn't always the case with K-9 units. In fact, she added Falco may be the first K-9 in the state to get a replacement vest before the current one expires.
"I can't imagine taking my dog into a situation that he could get killed in," said Hinds. "People need to know how important these programs are."
Over the past 10 years, Hinds' agency based out of Walpole has helped provide 268 protective vests for police dogs. For more information on Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog, click here.
Facts about K-9 vests
- $735 each
- Weigh 4-8 pounds
- Ballistic materials are the same as those used for police officer vests
- Vests protect against blunt force trauma, such as from kicks, punches or bats
- Vests provide protection for dog's underbelly while crossing rough terrain
- Vests don't inhibit canine's movement
- Worn as needed, depending on the danger of the situation
~ Courtesy Mass. Vest-a-Dog
Editor's Note: Due to a typo, Allison Kapoll's last name was originally misspelled. The article has been updated to reflect the proper spelling. We apologize for the error.