Thanks to a gift from a Delaware resident, Westerville's K9 officer will be equipped with new safety gear.

Westerville has announced that nonprofit organization Vested Interests, which specializes in protective vests for K9 officers, had provided a bullet- and stab-protective vest courtesy of a donation by Delaware's Greg Nobis.

According to the city, the vest is valued about $2,000.

Fiji, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, has been Westerville's K9 officer for almost six years, and is partnered with officer Bryan Schwartz.

The pair have won eight gold, three silver and four bronze medals at the Ohio Police and Fire Games, and Fiji has two exceptional-duty awards and one life-saving medal.

The safety vests Fiji has worn have a five-year lifespan, and Fiji's was nearing the end of its usefulness.

The department used a donation from Nobis -- who also helped donate a vest to Delaware police last year -- to go through Vested Interest's K9 protective-vest program.

Vested Interest was established in 2009 to assist law-enforcement agencies in providing protection for K9 officers and has donated an estimated $5.7 million worth of equipment.

In a release, Schwartz thanked Vested Interests and Nobis for their help.

"Fiji is a working dog and takes her work seriously," Schwartz said. "She's clear-headed and able to socialize well, but she's all business when we're working. She's strong, highly trained and very alert.

"But there's no substitute for extra safety. On behalf of our entire department, I'm grateful for this donation, which together we'll use to continue our mission of keeping Westerville safe," he said.

For more information, visit westerville.org/police.

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