LEWISBURG — Corporal Andrew Johnson and Apollo, his K9 partner, attended the Lewisburg Village Council meeting on Thursday, April 20, to recognize Spike’s K9 Fund and their donation of Apollo’s new ballistic-proof vest.
Spike’s K9 Fund is a federally registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by retired Special Warfare Operator James Hatch and named after one of his most memorable K9 partners.
As a K9 handler on several deployments, Hatch’s life was often saved by the work of K9s. On the night of Hatch’s final deployment he was assigned to a task force in Afghanistan. There he was critically wounded, but K9 Remco saved Hatch’s life, at the cost of his own. Remco had run through a hail of bullets at two Taliban fighters hiding in a ditch, exposing their whereabouts. Remco saved the task force with his actions.
From that moment, Hatch decided to dedicate his life around training and caring for working dogs. In addition to being the founder and president of Spikes K9 Fund, Hatch also works with local law enforcement and works to make retired service dogs lives better. It was actually through working with law enforcement that Hatch saw that K9 units were not well funded.
He went to K9 Storm, the company that makes the military vests and asked to design a vest that a police dog could wear. Midwest Director Jill Cutter added, “The old vests are very big and floppy and they’re long. They don’t fit the dog. The dog cannot do his work in those vests.”
Apollo showed up to the council meeting already wearing his new vest, which Corporal Johnson says is “top of the line” and “custom fit.” The organization actually came out and measured Apollo, to be sure the vest was not in any way bulky or a hindrance to his work.
“I reached out to this organization two months ago and they jumped through loops to help us get a vest. It is 100 percent donated to us. It is ballistic proof, its the real deal,” Johnson said.
The vests only cover the dogs vital organs, but the small size is necessary for the dog to be able to jump in and out of cars and jump over fences. It allows for ultimate mobility, while still keeping the dogs safe.
Apollo’s vest is no more than 4 pounds, while the old vest would have been 10 pounds. Cutter added, “This doesn’t interact with how the dog cools, so they can wear it their whole shift.”
It is stab resistance and bullet proof. They do cost $2,500 each, but they have a lifetime guarantee. There are reported cases of the vests saving K9 dogs lives.
As the Midwest Director, Cutter is dedicated to getting vests to all Ohio dogs. Since she started in the state, she has provided vests to 65 dogs. “I’m not going to stop until I get every dog in every county in Ohio. I even have a few in Kentucky,” she said.
She sets up her booth anywhere she is invited, in hopes of spreading the news of the organization and raising additional funds.
“We also provide funds for medical care. If the dogs get injured and the department doesn’t have the money, we fund that,” she added. “We also provide training aids, like bite suits for the decoys so they can train dogs on how to apprehend suspects. Heat alarms for cruisers, we’ve done a couple of those in Ohio. Harnesses for bomb sniffers, these are only $300.”
She gave Apollo a patch for his vest and a custom water bowl.
After Cutter spoke, Johnson had a surprise for her. He said that he appreciates all Cutter did for the department and the village and his mother, Michelle Johnson, had actually raised funds to donate to Spikes K9 Fund.
She said, “Most of your probably know Delta Theta Tau Sorority, we have a Chapter in Lewisburg. I’m the President of the Chapter in New Lebanon. We are not a collegiate sorority, we are a philanthropic sorority. So what we do is, we do fundraisers and collect money to give away. That is such a great feeling. I’m so proud of my son and his chosen profession and his job. We’re so grateful for Apollo and we’re so grateful for Spikes K9 Fund providing this. Apollo was funded so quickly, it was amazing.
“My sorority did a fundraiser for Spikes K9. We want to pay it forward for another dog. We would like to present you a check for $500. We know there are lots of dogs who need lots of love and care. We are very pleased to donate that.”
All funds raised or donated to Spikes K9 Fund go to providing medical treatment and ballistic vests to K9 dogs. There is a shop online where anyone interested can purchase merchandise, or donate directly. There are also available sponsorships. Every fund raised to Spikes K9 Fund goes to help K9 dogs.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH