One Small Step

He saved their school. Single-handedly…well with four paws to be precise. Niko, a German Shepherd member of the McHenry County police force, took down a weekend would-be burglar. On Monday, theMicroSociety citizens and their facilitators gathered for a Town Hall meeting to address their incident-related concerns. And separate fact from fiction. Some of them had seen the flashing lights of patrol cars outside of the school. Others had heard the reports on the local news. And a few caught only bits and pieces of whispered conversations between their parents and neighbors.

“As you know, our school had a break-in this weekend,” started Sophie, the 6th grade president. “Luckily nothing was taken. The alarm went off and the police arrived in time to stop the crime.” Pushing her bangs away from her eyes, she scanned the audience. The kindergartners looked petrified. The second graders looked relieved. The middle school kids looked…well, kind of disappointed. She guessed they wanted more of a story. It was coming. Sophie took a breath. “Niko, the police dog was actually the one to stop the criminal. A true hero. We should all take a moment to be thankful that no one was hurt.”

No sooner had the moment ended than hands shot up. “My dad is a police officer,” declared Max, his eyes wild with curiosity. “He always wears a bulletproof vest. Was the dog wearing one?”

Sophie looked around the room. She didn’t have the answer. From the looks on their faces, no one did. “I wish I knew,” replied Sophie, the most honest response she could conjure.

Max didn’t want to wish. He wanted to know. So he asked an expert. His dad. Who informed him that canine vests ran $700-$900. Each. They had to be custom fit to each dog’s body. Max had been working at the Post Office all year and put almost all of his paychecks in his savings account. But he didn’t have nearly that many Micros. It was a lot. But something had to be done. These brave barkers couldn’t be put in danger like that.

Max shared his finding with 8th grade Emmy, who rode the bus with him. She was an animal lover. Had 2 dogs, 3 cats, and a ton of guppies. “Let’s start a non-profit,” she proposed. Not a blink’s worth of hesitation. “We could bake dog biscuits and sell them for American money. We’ll take all of the earnings and donate to the force so they can buy the vests.”

“Or even a new dog for the unit,” Max’s eyes lit up. “But if we give all of our money to the police, how will we stay in business?”

“We’ll get a grant from our government. That’s what nonprofits do.”

Max ignored the rise of red in his face. He should have known. A grant. But it didn’t matter. This idea was too good to let embarrassment get to him.

They sent their proposal to Sophie. And applied for a government grant. They took a leap of faith and gave their two week’s notice at their current jobs. While waiting for approval, Emmy and Max researched recipes for dog treats. Healthy ones. And perfected them. Emmy’s dogs told them so. After a few weeks, Sophie gave them the go. And start-up funding.

Business boomed. Thanks to Eric, their Marketing Director, word in the community (and outside) quickly spread. They had customers. Regulars. By year’s end, InVEST Biscuits, sold 1,200 treats, picked up 38 adult volunteers, earned a spot in the local paper, and raised enough for one vest.

Sitting down to complete inVest’s annual report, Emmy couldn’t help but notice that Max looked downtrodden. Her fingers paused on the keyboard. “What’s wrong?”

“We only were able to get one vest this year. There are so many dogs that won’t get the protection they need.” Max replied, running his hand through his auburn hair.

“One may not seem like a lot. But just think, it is more than they had before.” Emmy replied.

It was a start. One small step for Max and Emmy.

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