By Langley Cornwell
Stories and photographs of soldiers bravely serving our country move me. Many of the stories depict another type of soldier, the four-legged type. The U.S. Military has been using working dogs to help defend our country since World War I. In fact, brave canine soldiers were used in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. War Dogs website estimates that these amazing military heroes saved more than 10,000 lives during the Vietnam conflict alone.
A quote on the U. S. War Dogs website says it all: “The capability they (Military Working Dogs) bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine. By all measures of performance their yield outperforms any asset we have in our inventory. Our Army (and military) would be remiss if we failed to invest more in this incredibly valuable resource.” – GENERAL DAVID H. PETRAEUS, USA. 9 February 2008
While that’s impactful and inspirational, there comes a time when these military dogs are released from serving our country and must find a forever home. These dogs are at various stages in their lives; some are young dogs who didn’t meet the training standards of the military K-9 boot camp, some are older dogs that have completed their tours and it’s time for them to retire from service, and some are dogs that have been medically discharged from service due to sickness or injury that interfered with their ability to perform their mission. In all of these cases, the dogs need to find a safe and loving place to live out their years.
That’s where The Military Working Dog Foundation gets involved. This 501c3 non-profit organization’s mission is to help the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center find suitable homes for our four-legged soldiers after their period of service to our nation.
Regarding adoption, there is a priority ranking given to potential military dog adopters. Law Enforcement Agencies are given the first chance to determine if they have a requirement for a working dog to join their department. These dogs may be asked to perform patrol, drug and explosive detection or other civilian law enforcement duties.
Of course there are times when a dog’s age or health doesn’t allow him to be considered for civilian law enforcement duty. In that case, the dog’s former handler is given the option to adopt his former comrade. According to the Department of Defense, 90% of former Military Working Dogs are adopted by their handlers at field units. This statistic warms my heart. I’ve never served in the military, but I can only imagine the bond that is formed between a soldier/handler and their canine comrade. It seems, when possible, that this is the best solution for everyone involved.
In cases where it is not possible or feasible for the dog to go into law enforcement or be adopted by his former handler, the dog is made available for adoption to a loving family from the general public. The Military Working Dog Foundation helps find appropriate homes for the working dogs, whether it is with a law enforcement agency, with the dog’s previous handler, or with a special family. The organization serves as a resource of information to law enforcement agencies who need to secure a working dog as well as for the general public.
In addition to information dissemination, the foundation raises money to supply deployed military working dogs and their handlers with comfort supplies (dog treats, special gear, hygiene kits, etc.). Their fundraising efforts also go towards helping K-9 law enforcement agencies on a limited budget purchase special protective gear for their dogs. And finally, the Military Working Dog Foundation provides the necessary information and support services for the dogs that go into a private home.
To summarize, the Military Working Dog Foundation does everything possible to ensure that our military dog heroes have a safe and honorable life after their service to our country. As their website says, they are “Caring for America’s Canine Heroes.” Bravo to that.
Top photo by Beverly & Pack
Bottom photo by Jason044
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell
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