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KENAI - In memory of his late wife, a Nikiski man has donated more than $1,200 to buy a bulletproof vest for the Kenai Peninsula's only police dog.
"Animals were her passion," David Shoemaker said of the tribute that benefits Kazan, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois stationed at the Soldotna post of the Alaska State Troopers since 2001.
Shoemaker's wife, Dawn Shoemaker, died three years ago after a battle with adrenal gland cancer.
"She was active in pet rescue and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," he said. "She loved caring for animals of all kinds."
Shoemaker decided purchasing the vest was the right thing to do after receiving so much community support. He also wanted to honor his wife's love of animals.
"Had she been alive, she would have done it without hesitation," he said.
Trooper Brad Nelson, Kazan's handler, said he believes his canine partner deserves the best protection available.
He has long championed the cause to purchase Kazan canine ballistic body armor, but with state and trooper budget crunches, funds for such a purchase are tight.
"To have someone from the community - especially unsolicited - want to do something like this, it really means a lot," Nelson said. "The Shoemakers aren't just Good Samaritans, they're good people."
Kazan, as a canine officer, takes the place of - by some law enforcement estimates - five human officers.
"Kazan's duties include narcotics detection, locating lost or missing persons, locating suspects in hiding at a crime scene, perimeter patrol for serving warrants and tracking a suspect that flees the scene," Nelson said.