Students raise money to protect Stark County K-9

ALLIANCE, Ohio-- Stark County K-9 Chase is the first police dog in Ohio to have ever been assigned to a corrections officer.

"He comes to work with me every day. He goes home with me every night, and we work in the Stark County Jail," said his handler, Sherri Humes.

Chase, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois, is dual purpose trained. As such, he can also be called on to do police work in the field, tracking down criminals and protecting his handler.

"He's got my back 100-percent; he will do anything that I ask him to do," said Humes.

The shooting death of Canton Police Department K-9 Jethro in January 2016 shows it can also be dangerous work.

Jethro died after he was shot pursuing a burglary suspect.

"Whatever that officer asks them to do that's what they do, and many times, we have seen it in the past, where a K-9 is injured or killed because they were protecting their owner or protecting their handler," said Stark County Sheriff's Office Major C.J. Stantz.

So Robyn Rubel, a 5th grade teacher at Lexington Elementary in the Marlington School District, created a project for kids in the school's 'Pet Pals' group trying to help protect Chase.

The group created a kiss a dog contest, challenging students to vote with their contributions for which of their teachers would have to kiss Rubel's pet dog.

"We had all these jars in the cafeteria where kids would just put their coins in or even dollar amounts and the biggest amount got to kiss Sophia, Robyn's dog," said Jessica Moracz, a 4th and 5th grade teacher.

"I had one little boy who came up to me and he was going to use his birthday money because he wanted Chase to be protected so he could save the world," said Rubel.

The original goal was to raise $1,700 toward the purchase of a vest, but in just two-weeks time the effort raised twice that, enough to also buy a protective crate in which Chase could be transported.

On Thursday all of the Lexington Elementary students gathered for an assembly to formally present the vest to Chase.

"I feel that it would be really good because he would be safe when he goes out and he would have protection and not get shot or anything like that," said 5th grader Dawn Bacorn.

"For him to get shot, I would probably be bawling my eyes out, crying because it would be sad to see," said 5th grader Zoie Hoover, who helped with the effort.

"The kids could not have done this on their own so they definitely have support of the community of Lexington. I can't say enough about them," said Humes, adding, "they did not owe us anything and they reached out and helped tremendously."

"It feels good in my heart that Chase is safe and he's not going to get shot," said Hoover.