A Vested Interest



Erin Ferguson was waiting nervously in the parking lot of Visalia-Mineral King Lodge No. 128 last November as cops surrounded the entrance. The lodge’s security alarm had gone off in the middle of the night, summoning the police department and private security. With the possibility of an intruder still being inside, the officers weren’t taking any chances. Led by a K-9 unit from the sheriff’s department, they swept the building, searching high and low before ultimately declaring it safe.

Looking around afterward, Ferguson was struck by what seemed to be one glaring omission: Everyone was wearing protective vests during the search—except for the dog.

An officer on the scene told Ferguson that the department lacked funds for canine Kevlar. That’s when Ferguson saw an opening for his lodge to make a meaningful, and unique, impact.

Ferguson actually had a personal connection to the issue: His great-uncle led a team of service dogs during World War II. Ferguson saw the opening as a way to honor that legacy. So in December, he proposed raising funds for the Kevlar vests to the lodge’s foundation board, and later to the entire lodge during stated meeting. The members loved it.

By February, the lodge had teamed with the nonprofit Friends of the Visalia Police K-9 and presented a check during a city council meeting for $6,000 to cover the costs of four protective dog vests, which are good for two years. “We’ve told the police department that moving forward, we want to be the ones that provide them,” Ferguson says.

With the partnership, Ferguson hopes to invite the newly equipped K-9 unit to public lodge events. “It’s great for people to see the good work we’ve done as a lodge,” Ferguson says. “Every one of us takes great pride in making a positive difference for those dogs, especially when the police department shows them to the community.”

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