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By:  The Landmark, 

The Holden Woman’s Club with Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Capt. Tom Chabot and Duke, wearing his new vest. PATRICIA ROY PHOTO

HOLDEN – The most recent meeting of the Holden Woman’s Club had a distinctly warm and fuzzy feel.

That was courtesy of K9 Duke, a two-year-old yellow Labrador, who is currently employed as a member of the canine program at the Worcester County House of Correction and Jail in West Boylston.

The club paired up with Mass Vest-A-Dog, an organization that supports police dogs in Massachusetts, the Holden Woman’s Club donated $1000 to buy a basic patrol K9 vest for Duke that will support the dog’s vital areas from ballistic, slash and stab attacks, as well as blunt trauma as he goes about his work in the jail.

The vests are fitted, flexible and weigh about five pounds. They are made of the same material as a human officer’s vests.

“We’re pleased to provide these essential safety vests, made possible with generous donations and tireless volunteers – the community’s support is tremendously appreciated,” said Kathy Hinds, president of Mass Vest-A-Dog.

“We work very closely with them,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis of the group.

The connection between the club and canine came about when Holden Woman’s Club member June Carter attended a red carpet event at the Hanover Theater for the 2015 regional premiere of “Shelter Me: Partners for Life.” The film told the story of Nikita, a three-year-old shelter dog from Sterling by way of Puerto Rico, who was adopted by Sheriff Evangelidis’ department and went to work as a narcotics-sniffing dog. The movie went on to be shown nationally by PBS television for their series on animal shelters.

“That film was spectacular,” Carter said and it piqued her interest in the canine program.

Duke lives with his handler Lt. Thomas Chabot and has a life as a family pet as well as a K9 officer. Duke’s first home was with a former jail employee who lived in Holden and was no longer able to care for him, but knew the pet would have a good life with the Sheriff’s department.

Duke is the third dog that Chabot has worked with; he has a retired German shepherd along with Nikita who is best buddies with Duke.

“I have three dog beds, but Nikita and Duke always are in one bed together,” Chabot said.

Like his handler, Duke is expected to be available for work 24/7 whenever needed and just recently was part of a midnight spot check of prisoners’ cells, Evangelidis said.

As a long-time resident of Holden, Evangelidis noted that having the vest donation come from the Holden Woman’s Club was a particularly meaningful one for him.

The Holden Woman’s Club is a 101 year old organization, dedicated to community service, educational and cultural community programs. They annually award scholarships and provide funds and volunteer service to local charities.

One of the major fund-raising projects for the club is the annual spring raffle. Tickets are available at Jed’s Hardware on May 5,6 and 7. The raffle will be held on May 13. Tickets are also available from any club member.