“They served to save, and they deserve to be remembered.”
Did you know that March 13th is K9 Veteran’s Day in many cities and states across the U.S.? It’s true. A movement was started by Joe White, a former military dog handler, to recognize the efforts and sacrifices of our canine heroes. The quote above is their motto.
During Joe’s time in Vietnam, he saw canine heroes perform many vital tasks that no human could. He witnessed firsthand just how valuable these dogs were to our troops and how much they contributed to keeping our soldiers safe.
Many of these courageous canines lost their lives to protect and serve, but their only place of remembrance, until now, was in the hearts of the soldiers. Joe’s home state of Florida was the first to proclaim March 13th as K9 Veteran’s Day.
There are some dogs that, when they look at you, their personality just shines from their face. This is true of the Pumi. If you’re looking for an adorable fur baby that is loyal and fun, then look no further. If you want a dog that is intelligent, eager to please and excels in agility and working tasks, then a Pumi also fits that description. This is a truly well rounded breed that makes an excellent pet and a great working dog. Since I’m not a very active person, I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing I’ve only seen photos of the Pumi breed, because I know that if I looked into one of those lovable, expressive faces I would want to take the dog home!
The Pumi is a Hungarian herding breed that originated in the 17th and 18th centuries as an adapted version of the ancestral Puli breed. These dogs were used to herd farm animals including sheep, goats and pigs. They were very versatile and intelligent on the job, being equally useful for gathering, driving and keeping stock within boundaries.
Not a large dog, the Pumi is a square shaped breed, meaning that the height at the withers is the same as the distance from the prosternum to the buttocks. They are typically between 15 to 18 inches tall and weigh between 22 to 29 pounds, with the males being on the larger end of these ranges.
The Pumi has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service classification since 2001, but the breed has been recognized around the world as show dogs, agility dogs and working dogs for many years.
There are very few dog breeds that aren’t loyal to an owner who has earned their trust and respect. Stubbornness and independence are common characteristics in many breeds, along with the ability to think for themselves. But when it comes to loyalty, it’s the herding and livestock guardian breeds that display a unique devotion to those they bond with.
One trait wolves passed on to domesticated dogs was a strong sense of loyalty to their pack members – their family. In the early history of our relationship with dogs, warring humans utilized the size, aggressiveness and loyalty of large dogs to fight alongside soldiers on the battlefield. Since that time, dogs used in battle have been refined and tempered through selective breeding to fit into our more civilized world.
Guardian dogs, however, have remained much like they were when they were first created centuries ago to guard flocks from large predators. It’s thought that most livestock guardian dogs (LGD) are descendants of the extinct Molossus dog. These dogs were mastiff-like, big, powerful, courageous and loyal. Because guardian dogs are usually large breeds, it’s essential to make sure they get a proper diet formulated especially for big dogs, like the CANIDAE Life Stages Large Breed formulas for puppies and adults.
Sometimes CANIDAE gets the honor of helping out truly special pets and their amazing owners. It’s even more amazing when the duo goes further than just making a phenomenal team, but actually helps save lives and solves crimes together. That’s why I would like you to meet Ashes, a five-year-old chocolate Labrador fire dog, and her owner and partner, Brooktrails Fire Chief Daryl Schoeppner, of California.
What makes this story even more unique is the outpouring of community support and hard work—by both Ashes and Schoeppner—that it took to form their partnership. In fact, the community has stayed involved and continues to do what’s necessary to keep it going strong. You see, Ashes is a completely donation-driven dog, meaning that taxpayers are not charged for her upkeep or training.
Ashes herself was a gift. Schoeppner lost his first fire dog and partner of ten years to cancer. That special dog was an accelerant-detecting golden retriever named Eddie, who was also sponsored with dog food from CANIDAE. When sympathizers in Devonshire, England, heard about Eddie’s death, they gifted Ashes to the program.
It’s Hard Work Being a Hero
“She definitely earns her groceries,” says Chief Schoeppner, when asked about Ashes’ workload.
Having already helped to investigate over a dozen arson cases in 2013 alone, one memorable case Ashes and Schoeppner worked to solve wrapped up last year in Mendocino County. In this case, a 52-year-old mother was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison for setting fire to her home while her quadriplegic son was inside. The fire was particularly dangerous to local firefighters, as propane and oxygen tanks were used as accelerants.
And it’s not just major local arson cases the duo work to solve. They are a shared resource for the Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma County region. Ashes also recently helped with a weapons search in a local high school, searching over 600 lockers after a weapon was discovered at the school.
Rigorous Training Required
There is a lot of training – for both dog and handler – that goes into making an arson dog worthy to carry the title. Considering that what these canines discover is used for court evidence in cases like the one above, the evidence has to be solid enough to withstand the courtroom environment. The work is so rigorous and scrutinized that there are less than a hundred canines in the U.S. that do this type of work.
Ashes has always proven more than worthy of the challenge, though. When she was almost a year old, she was flown to Texas to attend the Canine Academy Training Center for three months of intensive training. It’s not easy detecting accelerants when you’re talking parts per billion. As part of her testing, she would have to identify one syringe drop of accelerant, such as 50 percent weathered gasoline, in a mixed matrix of materials, explained Schoeppner.
For example, containers mixed with carpet fibers, wood and plastics would be presented to Ashes and she would have to locate which one contained the tiny drop of fire accelerant. That alone is amazing, but Ashes had to identify the substance correctly within a six-inch area. Ashes can detect specific substances in vehicles, on the clothing of suspects and in large open areas, such as parking lots.
After her individual training course, Chief Schoeppner joined Ashes for an additional two weeks of intense training. They had to prove that they could pull their own weight, singularly and as a team, and meet every criteria with a 100 percent correct rating. “She’s a multi-disciplined dog and quite the working girl,” said Schoeppner.
The initial thorough training isn’t all there is to it, either. They have to be re-certified every year in order to work together. Ashes and Schoeppner will soon be traveling to San Diego to do just that. There they will be joining other arson dogs, including three others from the state, although Ashes is the only public agency dog in Northern California. Washington and Colorado are also expected to have dogs present.
Giving Back to the Community
In addition to firefighting, Schoeppner and Ashes participate in grade school fire safety education by visiting local elementary schools. Ashes is a hit with the children. “She’s a great tool to get the attention of the kids,” said Schoeppner. “We even have trading cards with Ashes’ photo and stats to hand out.”
This is fitting, considering the community support it takes to adequately see to Ashes’ care. Their initial training and travel costs were covered by the Mendocino County Fire Chiefs Association, who is a big supporter of the program. The community at-large also donates, through fundraisers and a special dog house, as well as collections taken at local merchants’ counters.
Ashes is so well recognized in the community that Schoeppner says people always come up and ask him, “Hi, how’s the dog?” and then inquire after him. Not that he minds. “She’s the rock star and I’m the roadie,” Schoeppner jokes.
Fueling a Fire Dog
CANIDAE has been happily providing food for Ashes for five years. For ten years before that, they supplied the food for Eddie. It all started 15 years ago when Schoeppner contacted a member of the CANIDAE sales team, who was always supportive of making sure he had what he needed.
Even his vet is pleased with the use of CANIDAE dog food for Ashes, citing good weight and health. “Without CANIDAE’s sponsorship, it would be very difficult for us,” said Schoeppner. “I’ve always liked the food and it’s a great working dog food. I would like to extend a special thank-you to CANIDAE.”
Photos by Daryl Schoeppner /Brooktrails Fire Department
Dogs are famous for their acute sense of smell. Beagles have been employed as bed bug detection dogs, and they sniff bags in airports to check for illegal fruits and vegetables being brought in by travelers. Drug and bomb sniffing dogs are trained to detect the smallest hint of contraband or explosives. More recently, archaeologists have discovered a dog with a good nose can be trained to search for smells that will tell us about our historical past buried in prehistoric grave sites. Now that’s a dog with a keen sense of smell!
When comparing scent receptors, we humans are woefully inadequate to dogs. Humans have around five million scent receptors in their nose, and the average canine has around 200 million. Adding to a dog’s extraordinary scenting ability is an organ located on the roof of the mouth that allows them to “taste” a smell, as well. So when we catch a whiff of steaks grilling on a BBQ close by, you can imagine how that mouth-watering scent is affecting your dog. Dogs are also capable of honing in on one specific smell among many. Once they find what they’re looking for, their focus is on that one smell, and they can follow it to its source. That’s why it’s nearly impossible to evade a tracking Bloodhound.
Historical Human Remains Detection dogs (HHRD) are trained to sniff out lingering odors from bones and teeth in old grave sites, some that may be thousands of years old. These unique canines are the newest detection dogs, and they help humans search for information underground that is difficult for us to find on our own. These specially trained dogs have been used by archaeologists, construction companies and ordinary people to locate American Indian burial sites, lost family cemeteries and unmarked grave sites.
We live in the present, but our history is buried in the past. We learn who we are as a people by understanding who we were in the past. Spread across this land are historical and prehistoric grave sites that can take us back to another time. In many cases, finding a hundred-year-old family burial spot isn’t of any real value to most people, but it is to the family searching for their roots.
The Parson, Jack Russell, and Russell terriers are actually three different breeds, even though they’re related and look much alike. The Russell Terrier was introduced at the National Dog Show in 2012 as a new breed recognized by the AKC. The Jack Russell is not a recognized breed, despite the dog’s popularity in this country. There is a good explanation as to why, but it can be a bit confusing.
The Parson, Jack Russell and Russell terrier breeds were all named after the Reverend John “Jack” Russell (1795 – 1883), a parson who lived in Devonshire, England during the 1800s. He was an avid fox hunter, when he wasn’t attending to his duties at his church. The Reverend was also quite fond of fox hunting dogs, and bred them. His first terrier, a female named Trump, was likely the foundation for Russell’s working dogs.
Reverend Russell, also known as “The Sporting Parson,” wanted a working dog that was feisty, strong and confident ,to hunt fox and go to ground to flush out fox or other prey from a hole. The Reverend lived in the southern part of England where the terrain wasn’t as hilly, and a short legged dog met his needs. The small dog ran with hunters on horseback, and hounds following a fox. When the hounds chased the fox underground, it was the terrier’s job to follow and flush the fox out of the hole so the hunt could resume.
It was after Reverend Russell’s death when the JRT breed began to evolve into the Parson Terrier. Hunters living in areas where the land was more uneven and hillier wanted dogs with longer legs that allowed them to better navigate rougher terrain so they could keep up with the hounds and horses. They were also more interested in hunting other prey, primarily badger. If a pup was born with shorter legs, they were kept at home as companion pets, to roam around the barn and home catching vermin, and as watchdogs.
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