Something To Bark About

The Early Show's Contributor Debbye Turner takes a look at one such hero's hero. Stacey Hillman and Debbye Turner
CBS/The Early Show
The heroism of our nation's uniformed workers has been widely praised, but sometimes these heroes have heroes of their own. The Early Show's Contributor Debbye Turner takes a look at one such hero's hero.

For many law enforcement operations, K-9 police dogs are the frontlines, a very precarious situation.

There are no official statistics, but law enforcement agencies estimate that a dozen police dogs are killed each year in the line of duty.

These numbers might start dropping though the efforts of Stacey Hillman, a 12-year-old on a mission. For three years, she has been raising money, through a non-profit charity called Pennies to Protect Police Dogs. The charity that she started buys bulletproof vests for police dogs.

She has received countless awards, badges and gifts, but Stacey says these all pale in comparison to her ultimate reward, svaing the life of a dog.

"I don't do this for the awards. I do it so that the police dogs get vested," she says.

To date, Stacey has raised more than $160,000 and vested almost 200 dogs.

It takes a lot of work. With the help of her aunt Jackie Moore, Stacey spends almost all of her free time crisscrossing her home state of Florida to raise money and deliver the vests.

In Collier County, Stacey outfitted all 10 of the K-9 dogs with vests, making Sheriff Don Hunter one of her biggest fans.

"That's a pretty dramatic thing for us," he tells her.

Stacey insists, "I just protect the police dogs."

But for the officers who work with these dogs, that's like saying she just protects their children.

Hector Diaz is the K-9 officer in Marco Island, Fla. Last week, his partner Sampson became the latest K-9 dog to get one of Stacey's vests.

"He's a police dog, you know. He's my partner," Diaz says. "He's part of the family here at the police station, the community, you know, and my family as well. So, I think we need to protect him just as much as we need to protect any other police officer."

Needless to say, hers is not the life of a typical schoolgirl. She has met policemen all across the state, as well as Gov Jeb Bush.

"He made a donation to my charity," Stacey adds.

Diaz says, "There's going be a lot of people looking out for her. You know, she's a good girl. She's doing a heck of a job…If it were not for Stacey, I don't know any agency that would have a vest for a dog. I don't know any that budget it, that would budget for, a vest for a dog."

Because of that, Stacey and her aunt keep on working, traveling across Florida until every dog is as safe as Sampson.