Mark LaFlamme: Face Time: Mary Bunnell -- Working to protect K9 police dogs

Mark LaFlamme, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
·4 min read

Mar. 29—Raffles, bake sales, bottle drives, you name it. Mary Bunnell will do anything for the dogs.

Since last summer, Bunnell has been all over the place, doing all sorts of things to help raise money to buy medical kits, bite suits and protective vests for local police K9s.

In her efforts, Bunnell, a bank worker from Auburn, has been working closely with Androscoggin County Sheriff's Deputy Victor Barr and his dog, Sampson.

Initially the plan was to help raise money so that Sampson would have all he needs on the police beat, but Bunnell has since expanded her efforts to equip police K9s all over the state with gear.

We caught up with Bunnell during one of her whirlwind campaigns to find out what she does and why she does it.

I first met Deputy Vic Barr and K9 Sampson back in July of 2020. I've done fundraising before for the Dempsey Center and I asked if there was anything I could do for the deputies or the K9s and he told me about the need for medical kits for his training unit. He told me about this little girl named Peyton who lives in Pennsylvania and has a nonprofit called peytonsk9s.org and gave me her mom's information and I reached out to her.

I found out that the medical kits were $150 each and there was a need for them for over 20 K9s. I'm really good at fundraising, and during COVID times all my fundraising was via bottle and can drives. I would go to homes and pick up the bottle/can returns. We also did the first non-official Coins for K9s bake sale, as well as raffles and bottle drop-off to continue to raise money at the Auburn Mall back in October of 2020.

We were able to raise all the money for the K9s in Deputy Barr's group and then had extra. I travel all over different counties at times to collect donations. We've reached people from out of state from the news broadcast (of her fundraising efforts). I have over 100 people who regularly donate their bottles, whether it's one bag or 15 and sometimes even more. I have the help of my son and a few others to help with the bigger loads. So many local businesses donate their bottles and cans — 84 Court Street restaurant, Tripp's Farmhouse Cafe, Baxter Brewing to name a few. Big shout-out to Roopers for handling all of these donations.

I continued to fundraise and asked what else the unit needed and they said a new decoy bite suit. The cost of the decoy bite suit was $1,500. We had Dave Moore from Portland Police Department, who works with K9 Johnsey, order a specific suit to his measurements.

We have raised the money as well for a bulletproof vest for K9 Sampson; waiting on arrival. This is a continual fundraiser so I'm always looking for any donation anyone can give.

I just officially started the Coins for K9s nonprofit. The goal is to provide items for the K9s in Androscoggin County . . . that are not in city or county budgets. Deputy Barr sits as my vice chair, along with Deputy Darian Nadeau, committee member, Maureen Matatall, secretary, and Norma Boulet, treasurer. Deputy Barr and Deputy Nadeau are my eyes and ears on what the K9s and the handlers would need. K9 Sampson is our mascot for the nonprofit. We are currently planning a first kick-off event, which is still in the works because of COVID. We hope to bring in several K9 units to do demonstrations and sell raffle tickets and have food trucks, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, stickers, etc. Stay tuned. I have other K9 handlers telling me "Just say the word," from other cities and even State Police to help with demonstrations. The event would be focused on how much work these K9s do with finding lost family members, to commands, to just down right being a dog and a member of that handler's family!

I've always had dogs, but currently do not have any. I get my fix by spending time on helping our K9s.

Share my Facebook page: facebook.com/CoinsforK9s.; donate via PayPal: paypal.com/paypalme/coinsfork9s; contact me for bottle and can pickups via email at il.com; or call me at 207-577-4841.