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SUNY Canton students donate vest to St. Lawrence County K-9 deputy

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CANTON — The new Kevlar vest, a gift from a SUNY Canton student group, made the St. Lawrence County sheriff’s deputy grin ear-to-ear, stick his tongue out and wag his tail.

Hershey, a five-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever who makes up one-half of the department’s only K-9 unit, matched his partner, K-9 Officer Andrew J. Ashley — both wore the black bulletproof vests emblazoned with “Sheriff” in bright yellow letters Wednesday morning.

“He’ll only wear it on higher profile calls,” Mr. Ashley said.

The vest was a gift from SUNY Canton’s Criminal Justice Student Association, which worked in conjunction with the school’s American Criminal Justice Association and Veterinary-Technician Association, said Eli Max, a criminal investigation senior from Freeport.

“It cost us around $1,000,” he said. “We spent four months raising the money.”

Mr. Max, a David Sullivan — St. Lawrence County Law Enforcement Academy cadet, said the association raised the money by selling flowers leading up to Valentine’s Day, selling lottery tickets and T-shirts.

On Wednesday morning, they met the beneficiary of their efforts. Mr. Ashley, a Heuvelton native and SUNY Canton criminal justice graduate, said Hershey wasn’t used to the attention.

“He hasn’t sat still this long in his entire life,” he said. “He knows it is time to go to work.”

Most law enforcement agencies consider their canine partners full-fledged officers, the same as humans, Undersheriff Scott F. Bonno said.

“He works in the face of danger, just like Andy does,” Mr. Bonno said. “This is body armor comparable to what our officers wear.”

Mr. Bonno said Mr. Ashley and Hershey are the Sheriff’s Department’s only K-9 unit at this time.

“In the history of the department, we’ve had four or five,” he said. “This is the first Lab we’ve had. It’s always been German shepherds before.”

The students will continue their work, said William J. Fassinger, associate professor of criminal justice and faculty adviser to the Criminal Justice Student Association.

“They’re prepared to do a second vest,” he said. “The students did a fantastic job organizing and raising funds, and their efforts provided protection for a local law-enforcement officer.”

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