By MARINA WATERS
Jonesborough native Catrina Herd returned to her hometown Friday for many reasons — but her favorite reason is a furry, four-legged member of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit who goes by the name of “Sgt. Stocky.”
Herd donated and delivered a bulletproof vest to Stocky at the WCSO to protect the German shepherd while he’s on duty with his handler, Deputy Kenneth Harless. But the donation wasn’t at random; Herd — a veterinarian who now owns her own practice, Animal House Veterinary Clinic, in Nashville — met Stocky and Harless prior to the donation. She said she knew then that she wanted to donate a vest to her new canine friend.
“They were so helpful and just kind and I got to meet the dog,” Herd said. “When I found out they had a new dog that needed a vest, I just thought it’s a no-brainer because I have the means to buy a vest and protect a dog. And I think that’s a pretty good thing to be able to do.”
Stocky is one of six dogs in the WCSO K-9 Unit. The unit had five bullet proof vests before the donation, leaving one dog unprotected.
Now, thanks to Herd’s generosity, each of the unit’s furry friends are protected and ready to hit the streets.
For Harless, however, the donation doesn’t just mean another member of the WCSO family is protected — now his best friend and partner in crime is safe while on duty, along with the rest of the unit.
“It means a lot,” Harless said. “Not only has she protected my partner if something happens, but I’m giving his old vest to the new guy so now his partner is protected. Now every dog at the sheriff’s office is protected so if we have any situation, we can take care of it.”
And the WCSO K-9 Unit “takes care of” a lot; Stocky is certified in obedience, tracking, narcotic detection, article search, area search, building search and handler protection.
But for Herd, donating the vest wasn’t just about equipping Stocky with protection and giving back; she also said one of the areas in which Stocky is trained is one that is of most importance to her. And it’s an issue she hopes improves in her hometown.
“I’ve lost a lot of family members to drug addiction,” Herd said.
“So drugs on the street, that problem is really close to my heart. And of course I love animals, so what better could I do than to protect him so he can get more drugs off the street and protect our kids.”
Harless said Stocky is trained to pick up scents from marijuana, heroin, cocaine and meth. He also said there have been numerous instances when Stocky has discovered those drugs and he’s also been helpful in capturing escaped felons.
His training isn’t just a one-time thing; by state law, Stocky and Harless must complete 16 hours of training each month.
Stocky however, received his second certification in Meridian, Mississippi where he and Harless placed in the top five of the 21 canines competing in drug and narcotic tracking.
“So he’s good on his tracking,” Harless said.
For her generosity, WCSO presented Herd with each of the WCSO K-9’s baseball trading cards, complete with their handler’s names, certifications and background information, assembled in a shadow box as a token of gratitude.
The shadow box now serves as a reminder of the good work done in her hometown and the good work waiting ahead to be done in the lives of animals and their owners.
“(Having a dog) changes your life,” Herd said. “I just love helping these animal because I can help them, but it helps people too. That’s why I love what I do.”