Bruceville-Eddy police Officer Juan Cardenas got some help keeping his four-legged patrol partner safe Thursday.

“I would be devastated if something happened to her. She is a part of my family. She is my partner,” Cardenas said. “We go to work together, we come home together, on our days off we spend time together. She is a part of my family.”

Cardenas and Xena, a 2-year-old pointer-mix narcotics detection police dog, attended the Bellmead Chapter No. 980, Order of the Eastern Star meeting Thursday evening. Members of the Bellmead Masonic Lodge raised contributions and hosted fundraisers for a specialty K-9 bulletproof vest in hopes of benefiting a local police department.

“It is really good to know that we can help the police, because right now they are the underdogs,” Matron Shirley Woodlock said. “We want to help them all that we can, and to know that we can help a small police department that may not have the opportunity or the funds to purchase a vest to protect one of their officers means a lot.”

While researching service projects that would benefit the community, Woodlock and Past Matron Jane Pitts saw a social media post about vested K-9s and decided to see if there was a need locally. Woodlock said she initially approached Waco police, but they had recently gotten a grant and purchased vests.

“Wanting to keep the vest closer to cities along Interstate 35, our meeting in December with the Lorena chapter, I asked a fellow sister if Bruceville-Eddy had a K-9,” Woodlock said. “We got in touch with Juan with Bruceville-Eddy, and I don’t know who was more excited when I mentioned about providing a vest.”

Bruceville-Eddy Police Chief Bill McLean said the department was overwhelmed with the support from the Bellmead Chapter No. 980 and their dedication to reach out to the department.

“We are a small department and we are budgeted. We have a thin budget that we try to run by, and things like this are unbelievably appreciated,” McLean said. “This is the first time one of our K-9 units has had a vest, and not only is Xena a K-9, that is his partner. She is with him 100 percent of the time.”

In addition to the new vest, members also presented Cardenas and Xena with a $100 check for other equipment, and with some accessories from United States Tactical, a Robinson company that offers tactical equipment and K-9 accessories.

“Her having this extra protection so she can go home with me, I have no words for that,” Cardenas said. “Knowing your partner has this kind of protection with a vest like we wear is something that is needed and very appreciated.”

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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