Since we last checked in with Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rebecca Anderson and her K9 partner Echo, the two-and-a-half year-old German Shepherd has acquired an important new wardrobe accessory: a custom-made bulletproof vest. “The vest is a specialized piece of equipment that’s measured specifically to your dog,” explains Anderson. “Now that she has a vest, she will be as protected as I am.”
Echo’s still adjusting to the weight and feel of the vest. “Imagine putting on a life jacket when you’re boating. It’s just a little awkward and bulky,” Anderson explains. “But as soon as I give her a command to go to work, her nose takes over and she does what she’s supposed to do.”
Echo received her new vest through a grant program at Vested Interest in K9s, a national nonprofit that aims “to provide bullet and stab-protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement.” Usually, it takes time for the nonprofit to secure sufficient funding before a vest request can be filled. But in this case, a preschool teacher from Eagle, Agnes Harakal, sponsored Echo’s lifesaving garb. “I contacted Mrs. Harakal and explained the program to her to see if she would be on board, and she said yes immediately,” says Anderson.
“I met Echo during show-and-tell,”Harakal recalls, where the friendly police dog immediately made her think of her late brother, Joseph Cassidy, a retired NYPD Deputy Inspector and 911 first responder who died of a heart attack in 2014, at 56. “Echo is trained to sniff out drugs, which is what Joe fought against in New York City,” Harakal remembers. Learning about Echo’s need for a vest, she immediately thought: “what a great way to remember Joe.”
Harakal donated the $960 required for Echo’s custom bulletproof vest and added a special touch to commemorate her brother: his name is embroidered on the front in white thread. “My brother was a police officer with a great sense of humor,” Harakal laughs. “He would have loved this, and that was the point.”
A thousand miles away in New York City, Cassidy’s grandson, Owen, recently took a picture of Echo to his own preschool show-and-tell—full circle, in a sense. “I made this [donation] because my brother died way too young because of causes from 9/11, and I wanted to remember him in this way,” says Harakal. “And now, his grandson has a police dog that he thinks is his.” From the east coast to Eagle County, Echo is more than just a working dog—she’s a living memory.