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Kevlar for a special K-9

It was after discovering that a Vancouver, Wash., police dog had been shot and killed in the line of duty that Nicole Ferrett decided she wanted to do something to make sure future four-legged friends were protected.

That's when Ferrett, a Stoller Middle School eighth-grader, realized that she could help out closer to home, aiding a Washington County Sheriff's Office canine named Titan and his human handler, Deputy Timothy Mateski.

'I saw on the news that Dakota the police dog…died and I knew that would be my cause because I love dogs,' said Ferrett, whose family has two Burmese mountain dogs.

Soon Ferrett and her mother, Patti Ferrett, contacted the Washington County Sheriff's Office and discovered that Titan was in need of a bullet-resistant vest.

'We found out (the vests are) custom-fitted to each dog,' said Patti Ferrett. 'It's not something they go out and buy (off the rack).'

Nicole Ferrett is a member of Stoller's Rebels with a Cause, a group of students that volunteer for community service projects under the supervision of teacher Logan Storm.

Both Nicole and Patti Ferrett soon began contacting people to help her with a raffle to benefit the animal.

Several willing donors stepped forward with raffle prizes. They included the Wilding family who donated an Xbox 360 Elite system and the Sieron family who purchased a Zune MP3 player for the event. Also, the Ferretts pitched in for a $50 gift card to the Oregon Duck Store at Washington Square.

Raffle tickets remain on sale through today (Thursday) at the school. So far, about 400 tickets have been sold to raise money for the $1,000 vest. Some students have stepped up to make sure the raffle is a big success. Phillip Barile purchased $102 worth of tickets and Bowen Hee bought $87 worth of tickets.

On Friday, Mateski and Titan will draw the winning raffle tickets during the 11:30 a.m. school lunch. The event will be recorded and played later during the school's video announcements.

The Ferretts will present the check to Mateski the same day and anything that comes in later will be forwarded in a second check.

'If we raise enough for two vests, it would be just that much better,' said Patti Ferrett.

Nicole Ferrett said she likes the idea that's she's able to help out Titan and Deputy Mateski.

'It was amazing, when we told people what this was for, how generous they were,' said Patti Ferrett. 'Our farthest donation came from the state of Virginia.'

Although the sheriff's office has received donations for its bullet resistant vests for police dogs in the past, no one can recall a middle school student launching such an effort, said Sgt. David Thompson, a spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

'This is a wonderful gesture from a caring student and we are grateful for her effort,' Thompson said. 'It is not often that the K9s are recognized for their hard work and it is great to see that a young person has taken on this cause to help them stay safe when they are at work.'

Thompson said that the dogs are sometimes placed in deadly situations to allow their human partners to stay safe.

'They are very dedicated to the deputies who they work with and have undoubtedly saved many of their lives in the past,' he said. 'I have no doubt that the vests the dogs wear will save one of their lives in the future.'