“I’m grateful MAVAD is doing a great job continuing with efforts begun 18 years ago, and has provided over 500 ballistic K-9 vests, over 250 K9 First Aid Kits, and dozens of grants for a variety of safety equipment, training and helped K-9 programs continue with purchasing many dogs for K-9 work as well.” -Kathy Hinds
Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog, founded in 2000 is an all-volunteer, 501c3 non-profit, supporting Massachusetts Police dogs by helping provide bullet-resistant vests (our primary goal), essential equipment, funding for training, and purchase of dogs for police / law enforcement K-9 programs throughout Massachusetts.
Kathy Hinds has volunteered in a variety of roles within the organization, since inception, concluding with retirement in 2017, after serving 8 years as President. She lives in Hopkinton, MA with her husband, Phil; daughter, Lisa, son-in-law, Chris; grandson, Lucas; and grand-dog, Skippy.
1) Can you please describe what inspired you to promote, create, manage and fundraise for Massachusetts Vest-A- Dog? Was it an event, a moment, a situation?
Two part answer! My daughter Lisa, at age 11, brought me her American Girl Magazine which featured Stephanie Taylor, who at 11 had founded the national Vest-a-Dog program. Lisa said, “I want to help vest a police dog.” At the time, we had no connection to law enforcement and had never met a police dog. As our hometown didn’t have a K-9, I asked who they call – MA State Police! We made arrangements for her and a small group of friends to meet a K-9 handler and his K-9 (MSP Trooper Robert E. McCarthy and K-9 Thor) at the Foxboro State Police Barracks. We learned a LOT that day! Not long after that meeting...
The defining moment which inspired the creation of MA Vest-A-Dog was the tragic death of K-9 Cero, who was killed in the line of duty on March 25, 2000. He was the devoted partner of Deputy William R. Niemi of the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office in Jefferson, Ohio.
Lisa and her friends worked hard to raise funds to vest Thor, and presented his vest on 5/17/00, at their school, Bird Middle School in Walpole. The effort grew from there...
2) What are most important facts that you want the public to know about the importance of the service that you provide at Massachusetts Vest-A- Dog?
K-9s will do just about anything without fear – whether tracking or apprehending a suspect, searching a building for a suspect, searching for drugs, evidence or a body. K-9s will do their job tirelessly, even tracking for miles in any kind of weather. Coupled with the fact the majority of K-9 programs funding is thin at best and most likely fragile, it’s an honor to help MA Vest-a-Dog, as the organization helps fill the gaps with essential equipment, training and even purchasing dogs!
People love their dogs, and can’t fathom K-9s being in harm’s way, without protective equipment. Almost everyday, there’s news about a K-9 team (dog and handler) have done something extraordinary to help keep their community safe in the United States. To help protect and keep safe K-9s (and their handlers!), is a humane act of love and honor. Every donation and each hour of volunteer effort is much appreciated!
3) Who is your mentor and what is the most important lesson that he/she taught you?
In 17 years, I have had the honor and pleasure of learning from many K-9 trainers, handlers and K-9s. One handler in particular has been constant almost since the beginning:
Special Agent Bobby E Earls Conrail Police Boston HQ, RET.
One of our earliest vest sponsors, Bobby Earls became my mentor with MAVAD. He freely gave of his time and experience, answering many questions. While K9 trainers and handlers taught us much about the world of K-9s, it seems everything learned gave way to many more questions, and he helped me better understand through sharing some of the day-to-day experiences he had with his K-9s, as well as the lasting bond between handler and K-9....and also the loss, when that K-9 partner retires/the difficulty in leaving that partner at home (and that partner’s expecting to go out the door with him!), but also the incredibly terrible loss when that K-9s dies.
Bobby sagely provided advice and input as MA Vest-a-Dog grew, eventually becoming an Honorary Board Member, and serving on the Grant Review Board, as well.
I remain indebted to Bobby for his graceful truthfulness and willingness to share – sometimes on difficult subjects.
4) Do you have any suggestions for people who would like to be involved in creating a similar program to Massachusetts Vest-A- Dog in other parts of the country or in other parts of the world?
I highly recommend for anyone interested in creating a fundraiser for K-9s, to reach out to their local police department and ask to speak with their K-9 handler. If they don’t have a K-9, what department/s to they call when a K-9 is needed, and reach out to that department.
Our questions when MAVAD first got started was:
1) do you have a K-9 vest? (no)
2) Would you use one if you had it? (yes!)
3) what’s preventing you from getting a vest? (funding)
Make sure the handler wants whatever assistance you’re offering, and then ask what approval needs to be secured from his/her department for your fundraising efforts. Some departments have different requirements, and it’s really important to work within their requirements!
To figure out what to do to raise funds, try this link for ideas: http://mavestadog.org/vests/become-a-fundraiser/
See if there might already be a K-9 program that you can work with – check this list on MAVAD’s website: http://mavestadog.org/vests/k-9-vesting-program-links/
5) What is your favorite quote about dogs?
Hard question! So many good ones...
“Dogs leave paw prints on our hearts.” -unknown
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” -Agnes Sligh Turnbul
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” Roger Caras