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FARMINGTON — Two Utah Highway Patrol K-9s are the beneficiaries of new bulletproof vests thanks to a 13-year-old boy and his Eagle Scout project.
Gavin Ritter, of Syracuse, spent five months selling pizza cards, doing service projects and collecting donations, with a goal of raising $1,500. He ultimately totaled $3,200.
“I just like dogs, and I want to be in law enforcement when I grow up,” the teen said, standing feet away from K-9 Chapo, who wore his new vest to a gathering Thursday outside UHP’s Farmington field office. “It’s pretty good to know that he’ll be safe when he goes into dangerous situations.”
Sgt. Jimmy Banks, Chapo’s handler, thanked Gavin in front of UHP staff and the boy’s family.
“You never know when it’s going to save their lives, right?” he said. “We appreciate it, dude.”
Banks said he felt more comfortable about his drug-sniffing dog facing some of the on-the-job hazards now that he has a bulletproof vest.
“To have him have that protection makes me feel a little bit better about sending him into a situation where … I don’t necessarily want to go myself,” he said.
Gavin raised enough money to purchase two vests, and the Utah Department of Public Safety is using some of the leftover money to create “trading cards” for the department’s 13 K-9s, UHP Sgt. Todd Royce said. The trading cards are still in the design phase.
Banks said he was impressed by the boy’s choice of project and determination to make a difference.
“To have a young man like that (who) wants to help give back and take the time that he did, it’s amazing to me,” he said.