SOMERVILLE, NJ — Author Jim Wiater came up with the story by chance. He was multitasking — driving the car and entertaining his young daughters, Nikki and Kaci, with a story that he made up as he drove.
Over the years, he expanded and refined the story line, sat down and began to write. Finally, last year, he self-published “The Adventures of Solo, The Big Dog,” nearly 12 years after the story was first conceived, inspired by the bravery of a real-life K-9.
It is a children’s book, about a K-9 police dog, but it goes beyond teaching children value lessons — “The Adventures of Solo, The Big Dog” helps to protect other K-9s on the job.
Proceeds from the sale of each book are used to underwrite the expense of body armor for K-9s, as well as other customized K-9 equipment. It takes about 60 books to buy a custom K-9 vest, according to Wiater.
Each vest is custom fit after the dog has been measured to ensure maximum comfort during an eight-, 10- or 12-hour shift, said the Millstone resident, who is a carpentry teacher at Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools' Piscataway campus.
Next in line for a fitted armor vest is K9 Basilone, a 14-month-old black and brown German shepherd, the newest officer in the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department, trained in article search and tracking.
Since publication in January, 750 copies of Wiater's book have been sold; proceeds have purchased K-9 body armor for three other dogs, as well as a K-9 first aid field trauma kits, a K-9 cooling vest, and pet oxygen mask kits requested by local police departments, prosecutor's and sheriff's offices in New Jersey, according to Wiater.
The real-life K-9 Solo was killed in the line of duty in Bradley Beach in 1998. Touched by the story of the dog’s bravery, Wiater told a gathering of the New Jersey State Patrolmen's Benevolent Association that he made a promise to himself then that he would purchase a bulletproof vest for a K-9 officer — a vow that has been strengthened many times over with the book effort.
The author encourages other police agencies to request K-9 armor or other equipment; requests are handled on a first-come, first-served basis, he said.
More information can be found online at BigDogBooks.net and at GoFundMe, Friends of Solo/K-9 equipment on Facebook.