For many years, Jim Slater and his German shepherd partner, Olaf, had worked together on the Winnipeg Police Department. Throughout their career, they had made 285 arrests as police partners. During a prison riot confrontation, Jim looked down and realized that he had many different types of armor covering his vital organs, but Olaf had none. Jim’s initial thought was to look for a place to purchase the type of body armor that would fit a working dog. Many police departments, the military and other agencies were using working dogs each day. He believed someone had thought about the dogs’ protection, but he learned quickly that no one had taken the time to design appropriate gear for the canines.
Mr. Slater decided to create a special vest for Olaf that would protect his vital organs from a harsh kick or other physical threats. He did not have the materials to make the vest bulletproof. Mobility was the most important requirement because Olaf had to be able to run fast and jump without being inhibited by the vest design or fastening straps. As other handlers noticed Olaf’s vest, they asked Jim to make one for their canine partners. This venture turned into K9 Storm Inc. This company, run by Jim, is producing canine body armor for military personnel and first responders in 18 countries.
K9 Storm continues to sell innovative canine body armor products to military and police departments all over the globe. Economic conditions have affected other Canadian exports but not K9 Storm. The most popular vest is bulletproof Kevlar, which is custom-fitted for each dog. Inside the vest is a load-bearing harness that allows the dog to ride a hoist cable that is lowered from a helicopter. A rope can be attached to the harness when the dog must rappel down a mountain. Parachute hooks can be attached to the harness for entry behind enemy lines. Other accessories include microphones, speakers and cameras that allow the human partner to communicate with the canine.
The equipment for a working dog can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $30,000, which is a worthwhile investment. K9 trainers will spend months, and sometimes years, working with a canine that will end up in combat or working with first responders. Many estimates place a price tag of $40,000 on the training that transforms young pups into working dogs that save lives and become lifelong companions for their working partners.
Security and wartime activity are facts of life in the 21st century. K9 Storm, Inc. will have a steady stream of customers from many countries where the need for canines is growing each year. Older dogs do retire, which requires new equipment for the younger dogs that will take a position working wherever their owners go. Various accessories on each vest allow the customer to select the equipment that is necessary for each dog’s assignment. A new mounting system will allow cameras to be shared between multiple dogs. This type of innovation ensures that K9 Storm, Inc. is competitive for many years to come.
Bulletproof Kevlar vests continue to save the lives of working dogs. Chikko was working with a Delta, British Columbia, police officer when a bad guy brought a pitchfork down on the dog’s back. The vest caused the pitchfork to slide off the dog’s back. Chikko was sore for a while but back on the beat in two days. Another instance found Blitz and his partner facing down an armed suspect. After the altercation, the police officer found two flattened bullets when he took off the dog’s vest.
Jim Slater rests better at night knowing that his endeavor has provided suitable body armor for working dogs in many different settings all across the globe.