Canine Kevlar for Christmas

Realtor wraps up fund drive for police dog vests

Three canine officers at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department will be sporting new Kevlar vests soon. They were briefly available for photo op with donor Felix Valdes of Cherokee Lake Realty. Posing with the canines are (from left): Valdes, Officer John Holland, his partner Tuko, Officer Lathe Daniels, his partner Raven, Officer Timothy Herzog, his partner Ryker, and Chief Deputy Patrol Division Jeremy Nash. – Steven Lloyd | The Standard Banner.

It’s a Kevlar Christmas for Ryker, Tuko, and Raven.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department canine officers will soon be wearing protective vests on duty thanks to the generosity of those who gave to the non-profit “Keeping Canines in Kevlar” program.

The fund drive reached its goal in record time after a family dinner at the home of Felix Valdes, owner of Cherokee Lake Realty.

“We had just sat down to eat when we heard about it on tv,” Valdes said Monday. “We decided right there it’s what we wanted to do for Christmas.”

When he reached JCSD Patrol Chief Jeremy Nash, Valdes learned that the drive had raised funds for one $2,600 vest and started on a second. Valdes informed him that the fund drive was actually finished, because “I’d like to pick up the rest of the tab.”

“Are you serious?” Nash asked.

“We’re animal lovers,” said Valdes. “My wife, daughter, and I have three dogs at home, several cats, parakeets, and fish. Knowing those dogs will be protected while they do their jobs makes us feel good.”

The vests will be ready in a few weeks, and Nash said he’ll post photos of the canine officers in their new gear.

Valdes was born in Cuba, and his parents were Spanish. He was living in Miami, where he had a marketing company, when he decided to move north.

“I’m the kind of person who researches everything first, so I started with southwest Virginia and worked my way down to East Tennessee. I fell in love with it.”

He met his wife Michelle here, and they have a daughter, Sofia.

About five years ago, he purchased Skeen Realty when David Skeen retired, and changed the name to Cherokee Lake Realty. He’s currently in the process of moving his offices from the current location on Old Andrew Johnson Highway to the Regions Bank Building.

Lt. Tim Herzog heads up the department’s canine program. His partner is Ryker, a dual-purposed (drug detection, apprehension) Belgian Malinois. Deputy John David Holland works with Tuko, a dual-purposed Dutch Malinois, and the newest dual-purposed team is comprised of Deputy Lathe Daniels and Raven, also a Belgian Malinois.

The department’s explosives detection and tracking team members won’t be using protective vests for their work, but they are integral parts of the team. They include Deputy Josh Rigsby and German Shepherd Nitro (explosives detection), and bloodhound Cooper, who partners with Deputy Brandon Bullins as the department’s sole purpose tracking dog.