Kelso exploded from the back of the patrol car and made a bee-line for Shyonna Leach.

Kelso exploded from the back of the patrol car and made a bee-line for Shyonna Leach.

It was as if the Medford police dog knew the North Medford High School student had dedicated her senior project to keeping him safe on the job.

Leach, 17, will cap her high school career with a funding drive to buy Kelso a bullet-proof doggie vest that he will wear on dangerous missions.

The dog, a rowdy Belgian Malinois, is tasked with tracking bank robbers and being thrown into homes where armed, barricaded suspects lie in wait.

Most of the time, however, the suspect gives up when he hears Kelso making a racket outside.

"When they hear him bark, they usually come out," said Medford K9 Officer Justin McFetridge, Kelso's handler.

But the possibility remains that Kelso could take a bullet on duty, which is where Leach decided to step in.

When it came time to formulate her senior project, she gravitated toward keeping the department's four-legged officers safe.

"I've always loved the K9s," Leach said. "And I wanted to do something to give back to the community."

Leach and Kelso bonded last week in front of North Medford High School. She scratched the dog's head as he leaned against her legs.

"This is the first time I've met him," Leach said.

"Hey, he seems to like you, though," McFetridge said.

Leach comes from a law enforcement family. Her mother is a detective for the Medford police.

She had learned that the dogs did not have protective vests, similar to the ones worn by the officers.

Leach's plan to remedy that was to start a fund-raising drive to purchase at least one of the vests. They run between $700 and $2,000.

Leach started by asking for donations and was surprised by the support she received. The owners of All Creatures Animal Hospital in Eagle Point wrote her a check for $1,000 to put toward the vest.

"I was surprised, but happy they donated so much money," Leach said.

The senior project calls for the student to take a leadership role of some form and to bring attention to something that could benefit the community.

Medford police Chief Tim George praised Leach's efforts, noting that the K9 program is important to the department. It's also quite expensive to purchase and train these dogs, so the extra cash to buy the vests is welcomed by the agency.

"She's a bright young woman who is going places," George said. "It shows how well our schools are doing to produce young folks who want to give back and make their communities better."

Leach scheduled a fundraising walk in the area surrounding North Medford High School. She also hosted a raffle to sell items to raise money for the vests.

About 30 dogs and 50 people participated in the fund-raiser, earning Leach about $1,200 in donations.

If she receives enough cash, she hopes to buy more than one vest for Kelso's canine colleagues.

"It would be nice to get all of the dogs a vest," Leach said.

Anyone who wants to donate to the fund can do so by visiting

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email