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Parkersburg boy donates money to help with K-9 costs

Parkersburg resident Hunter Houston poses with Wood County Sheriff’s K-9 Drago at a fundraising yard sale for Hunter’s group, Helping K-9’s One at a Time, in August. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — A Parkersburg boy delivered a donation for the Wood County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9s this week, and even brought along something for their human counterparts.

Ten-year-old Hunter Highley has been an enthusiastic supporter of the area’s four-legged officers ever since learning about sheriff’s K-9 Drago and meeting him last year.

“He started getting Drago snacks and stuff like that,” Hunter’s mother, Angel Houston, said.

After learning about other area K-9s and finding out their expenses often are not completely covered by department budgets, Hunter started Helping K-9’s One at a Time to raise money to support police dogs. They invited 15-year-old neighbor and dog lover Shanna Thompson and her mom, Angela, to be a part of it.

Hunter said he’s enjoyed meeting and playing with the dogs, but he also appreciates their ability to do their jobs.

Parkersburg resident Hunter Houston, left, poses for a photo with Wood County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Robert Sims on Wednesday at the Wood County Justice Center after delivering a check for the K-9 fund and treats for deputies. (Photo Provided)

“They’re nice until you set them off,” he said.

The group’s first fundraisers, after pandemic restrictions had relaxed, were a donation yard sale and silent auction, raising more than $1,300.

“The community really pitched in big time for that,” Angel Houston said.

They wanted to do a car wash and a pepperoni roll sale next, but cases of the virus began to rise again, she said.

They still distributed some order forms for the DiCarlo’s pepperoni rolls but “really didn’t push the issue” because of the pandemic, she said. Still, they raised $357 and presented the money Wednesday to the Wood County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Steve Stephens said the Wood County Commission provides a line item in the budget that covers most of the feeding and maintenance costs for the department’s three K-9s — Drago, Ogi and Maggi.

“Occasionally we have a higher than normal vet bill, and that eats up our budget pretty quickly,” he said.

Fundraising supplements those costs, as well as training and kennel fees when K-9 handlers go on vacation, Stephens said.

“We truly appreciate the community support for these fundraisers, especially to Hunter and Angel,” he said.

Sheriff’s Deputy T.K. Phillips said the contributions are a big help and make the handlers feel special.

“It’s amazing, because our partners are not cheap,” she said.

Hunter said he enjoys giving gifts to officers and seeing “how happy the dogs get and how happy their handlers get.”

The money delivered Wednesday was accompanied by cheese balls, pretzels, mints, chips and a massive chocolate bar for deputies to enjoy — plus peanut butter for the K-9s.

“They take care of us,” Phillips said with a laugh.

Angel Houston said her son enjoys showing his appreciation for the non-K-9 officers as well, often giving them candy and small cards bearing the words “Dear Officer: #WeNeedYou.”

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com

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