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Medford police dogs don bulletproof vests

Search dogs for Medford police now have bulletproof vests, thanks to a fundraising effort by a North Medford High School student.

"I saw that they didn't have vests on the dogs, so I decided it would make a great senior project," said 18-year-old Shyonna Leach.

Leach raised $4,000, but the two vests cost $2,210, so she donated the remainder to Jackson County Animal Care and Control.

The Medford City Council accepted the donation last week, praising Leach's efforts.

"What a wonderful reflection of our upcoming citizens," Councilor Bob Strosser said.

Police brought out two dogs — Barry and Kelso — that are part of the canine search team, for the councilors to see.

Leach said that some time ago she was brainstorming, trying to figure out what to do for her senior project.

Her father, the late Ray Glen Leach, was a police officer who started the local canine unit.

Shyonna has two dogs, a Pomeranian and a black Labrador, and she realized that police dogs aren't protected with vests as police officers are.

Her mother, Medford police Detective Stephanie Smith, said she had nothing to do with her daughter's senior project idea.

"My biggest fear in life is dogs," said Smith, adding that she has been attacked by dogs before, so she kept her distance while Shyonna petted the two police dogs.

During her fundraising efforts, Shyonna received $1,000 from All Creatures Great and Small in Eagle Point.

Police send the dogs into buildings to search for victims and suspects. Medford police officers don't recall any local attacks on dogs, but in other cities throughout the country, dogs have been shot or stabbed. Many cities provide bulletproof vests for police dogs.

Medford police Chief Tim George said Shyonna plans to follow in her parents' footsteps and enter law enforcement. She plans to pursue a degree in psychology and become an FBI profiler.

George said police dogs are an invaluable part of law enforcement, often sent into dangerous situations. Suspects usually surrender when confronted with the imposing hounds, he said.

"They become a pretty valued team member," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

One of Medford police’s K-9s sports a bulletproof vest purchased through a fundraising effort by North Medford student Shyonna Leach. Damian Mann photo - Damian Mann