Family donates K-9 gear in memory of Dylan Joseph

K-9 Rookie

Sheriff Mike Lewis, left, assists Deputies Bobbi Jo Lewis and J.C. Richardson in placing the vest on K-9 Rookie. (Todd Dudek Photo)

At first, K-9 Rookie wasn’t sure about the 10-pound bullet proof vest his partner, Deputy Bobbi Jo Lewis, was fitting around him.

The 3-year-old German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix bucked a little, but Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis put a steady hand on his back and comforted him.

Within minutes, the dual-trained police dog, known for being affectionate at home with Lewis, was chewing on his favorite Kong toy, lost in the joys of slobbering and tug of war, and looking professional in the black vest, with the word “Sheriff” on each side.

Rookie is the first of the Sheriff’s Office’s seven dogs to have a bulletproof vest, donated by the Wheatley family, in memory of 6-year-old Dylan Joseph of Mardela Springs, who was killed in a four-wheeler accident last July.

“It was Dylan’s Christmas present because, how do you buy for one child when you’re used to buying for two?” his mother, Vicki Wheatley, said, her voice breaking. Around her neck, she wore a pendant imprinted with her son’s fingerprint.

Her husband Ricky was at the Sheriff’s Office for the presentation, too, as well as her daughter Taylor, her parents, Dylan’s little cousin and Wheatley’s sister, Michele Bielski.

Dylan, who died July 5, “wanted to be a K-9 cop,” Bielski said.

“We decided to do this in his honor.”

He loved his boxer, Carly, and the TV cartoon Paw Patrol, with its canine hero, Chase.

“We want to do something for his birthday, too,” his mother said, flipping through photographs of the boy on her phone – on his ATV, hugging stuffed animals, making silly faces.

The family plans to also donate to the Mardela Springs ambulance squad, whose emergency team responded to the accident, but there haven’t been any fund-raisers. Family members are spending what they normally would if there were shopping for Dylan, his mother said.

“He’d be so happy if he knew we donated the vest for this dog,” she said, watching Rookie play with his partner, who called him “awesome.”

“He loved animals,” his mother said.

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Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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