Safety vest for CSPD canine crimefighter comes with touching tribute

Hear the special story behind a Colorado Springs police dog's new protective vest.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 10:35 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - She loves playing ball, taking walks with her family, and loses her mind over rabbits.

That is, of course, when K9 Britta’s not sniffing for potential explosives.

Britta is no ordinary pup. She has spent the last several years working alongside Colorado Springs police officers as an explosives dog. She’s been on more than 100 calls in her seven-plus years -- over 50 years in dog years! --and has even helped provide VIP detail for generals and U.S. presidents.

“If the president brought a rabbit out, we might lose her for a couple of seconds to the rabbit,” laughed handler Officer Shawn Mahon, who says that’s the canine crimefighter’s one and only kryptonite.

Just as with her human counterparts, safety is paramount for Britta and other four-legged officers who got out in the field. Many of the patrol dogs already have bullet and stab protective vests. Britta and fellow explosives ordinance K9, Chewie, got their very first vests this week!

“The thing is with these vests, if we have to put them in critical situations where maybe we’re getting fired at with shots or maybe there’s a person there with a knife, we can put this vest on them, and the dogs are going to be protected,” Mahon said.

The vests are provided by national non-profit Vested Interest in K9s.

“They provide vests for all these dogs, whether they’re patrol dogs, single purpose dogs. ... Sponsorship has been so huge nationwide. There are smaller departments that can’t afford these kinds of vests, so I think this non-profit really provides a lot of money to these dogs and to the departments to provide these vests to that,” Mahon said.

Usually, a dog will get a sponsor, who donates the money, and Vested Interest donates the vest. Chewie’s was generously gifted by a Colorado Springs couple.

Britta’s vest included a touching tribute, entirely catching her handler off guard.

Britta is Mahon’s second K9. He lost his first companion, Petra, in a tragic training accident back in 2014. For a few months, he wasn’t sure when he’d be ready for another canine partner -- and then came Britta.

The pair has become very close over the last several years.

“When I first met Britta, she was a very high-drive dog ... very motivated to work, very energetic. First time I saw her and they told me this was going to be my dog, I was a little scared of her. She was too fast, I thought she was going to bite me, so I was very scared,” Mahon recalled. “But after time, after training, we developed a bond. We worked 10 hours a day together, we have a lot of little quirks we do together -- it’s kind of like having your kids at work. It’s a natural bond that just happened over time. It’s not even that she’s my partner, she’s basically my daughter.”

But he still carries the memory of his first K9.

“Vested Interest actually knew the story of Petra and myself, so what they did was actually provide a private sponsorship to put Petra’s name on Britta’s vest,” he said.

And there was another surprise when Britta received her vest: an embroidering reading, “In memory of K9 Petra - EOW 9/8/14″.

“It’s actually one of those things, I was actually surprised by it. Usually the sponsorships will include a quote or a saying of whoever donated to them. But it was one of those things where I got caught off guard a little with this one, and it really hit home for me because having my first dog’s name on my second dog -- it’s pretty sincere.”

It’s almost like Britta has a guardian angel now, watching over her.

“We just want to put a thank you out there for what they’re doing for our dogs,” Mahon said when asked what he and Chewie’s handler would like to say to Vested Interest. “These dogs are more than our K9 partners, they’re actually, like I said, they’re our daughters and sons to us too.”