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Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Deputy Chris Bagley turns his dog, Danno, loose to demonstrate his skills on officer Jeremy Elswood. Danno is wearing his new bulletproof vest.

LINDON — Utah County police dogs showed off their attack and search skills to a small crowd of kennel club members in Lindon on Thursday night, sporting their new bulletproof attire.

Officers held an appreciation ceremony thanking the 35-member Utah Valley Kennel Club, which teamed up with its sister organization, Intermountain Kennel Club, to purchase the two vests for Salt Lake and Utah County K-9 teams.

Human officers sport one-size-fits-all kind of vests that cost the department between $500 and $600. But the Belgium Malinois K-9s are specialty fitted with tailored vests that run about $2,200.

The vests don't cover very much of a policeman's four-legged partner, but they're apparently enough to guard its vital organs during a shootout. Such an event happened in Utah County just over a year ago.

"He (the K-9) was shot clean through his leg," said Sgt. Lane Critser. "But that didn't keep him from his attack. We only found the wound later when we did a nose-to-tail inspection."

The inch thick, layered vests, which wrap around the dog "like a burrito," weigh about five pounds and are equipped with harnessing d-rings designed for rapelling.

Utah County has seven dogs that are trained and assigned into specialized groups of duty: major crimes, patrol and the bomb squad.

Eight-year-old Veto, a $7,000 "sniffing tool," impressed the dog-loving crowd Thursday by detecting a mock stash of marijuana. A Major Crimes Task Force undercover officer was quick to mention the K-9 can sniff out the real stuff just as well.

"Just two weeks ago, the dog sniffed out a stash of marijuana that had been stuffed up a stuffed teddy bear's rear end," the officer said. "We would never have found that."

The toy's "guts" had an estimated street value of about $25,000 — a relatively small figure compared to a recent $2 million, 500-pound marijuana sniff-bust.

"It's reasons like that that make these dogs so important to our operation," said Critser. "And that's why these vests are valuable to us."

E-mail: jhancock@desnews.com