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Publish Date: 8/25/2005

Joe Ayotte and his daughter Ashleigh, 13, look on Wednesday as Sally, a 3-year-old bloodhound, gets a well-deserved belly rub from her handler, Deputy Cathy Bryarly, after the dog sported around a new ballistic vest bought with funds raised by Ashleigh.Times-Call/Joshua Buck

Police protection
Teen buys vest to shield deputy dog

BOULDER — Sally the bloodhound can’t seem to lie down while she’s in her new uniform, but it isn’t for loungin’.

It is for workin’.

With a Boulder County Sheriff’s Office badge gleaming from the front of her new K9 ballistics vest, Sally tried to get accustomed to the stiff getup that could save her life while she’s on the beat with her handler, Deputy Cathy Bryarly.

Ashleigh Ayotte, 13, donated the vest to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office after working for two years to buy the $1,000 bullet-resistant vest.

Ashleigh was 11 years old when she saw a sheriff’s office presentation of the K9 unit in Gunbarrel and noticed that one of the dogs was without the extra protection. Then and there, she told her parents she wanted to get that dog a vest.

“I saw a dog without one,” she said.

“I decided that could be dangerous if a suspect has a gun.”

The dog that Ashleigh saw without a vest has since gotten one, so her gift went to Sally, who for two years has worked without a vest.

Sheriff Joe Pelle presented Ashleigh with a special citizenship award in front of the Boulder County Criminal Justice Center at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“This is a wonderful example of what happens when we interact with kids and the community,” Pelle said.

Pelle also gave the citizenship award to the children who found more than $98,000 in February and turned it over to authorities. The children also got the money when it was not claimed.

“Ninety-five percent of the kids in our community are good kids and, given the chance, they will do the right thing,” he said. “As a public person, it is my job to recognize that.”

Ashleigh and her family lived in Gunbarrel when she began her fundraising projects for the vest, which included a garage sale, selling lemonade, auctioning a signed photograph of NBA basketball player Andre Miller and soliciting help from local businesses. She now lives in Johnstown and Wednesday also started her first day of eighth grade at Mead Middle School.

Bob and Pamela Ayotte said they are proud of their only child, who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

Ashleigh said she believes she could have raised the funds in about eight months had her progress not been delayed by her recovery from injuries suffered in a car accident.

Bryarly said Ashleigh is amazing. The deputy wore earrings shaped like dog paw prints and beamed during the special ceremony that was attended by media and other K9 deputies and their dogs.

Bryarly said Sally will wear the vest in situations where there is a risk she could be injured, such as when she is searching for a suicidal person who might be armed or when searching for bank robbery suspects.

Already, Ashleigh has a new project in mind. She would like to begin raising funds to benefit research for Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disease that affects appetite and proper development in children. It can cause problems with muscular development, morbid obesity, behavioral problems and other symptoms.

Ashleigh became aware of the disorder when Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle’s daughter was diagnosed with it.

She said she doesn’t want to see Hurdle and his family saddened by the effects of Prader-Willi.

Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at pshields@times-call.com.

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