Canine military dogs are worth their weight in gold!
13 March has been annotated as an ‘unofficial’ day in our National calendar, to honor and commemorate all the amazing K9 veterans who have served us and our country well.
These courageous canines don’t volunteer, they are simply drafted, yet their loyalty and bravery knows no bounds, and they gladly put their lives on the line to protect their human service buddies and brothers in arms.
At the time of writing, there are over 2500 of our furry friends in active duty, with around 700 of them deployed in foreign countries.
The roles they perform are as diverse as the breeds that are enlisted for service, ranging from German Shepherds, to Golden Retrievers to Spaniels. But they were not trained to kill; they were trained to save lives, with roles including: transporting medical supplies, search & rescue (on land & sea!), sentries, messengers, clearing buildings, explosives detection, tracking, tunnelling, narcotics inspections, customs and border protection and even pulling telephone wires under airfields and mined tunnels – to name just a few!
So they have duties during periods of both war and peace. What’s more is they do it far more accurately than any other available military equipment! They were an invaluable resource at the Ground Zero search and rescue and these professional pooches are a familiar sight in their “hi-viz” vests at airports and other transport hubs.
Just like normal dog training, these specialized skills are acquired through a reward-based program. However, it made me chuckle when Army Col. David Rolfe (Director of the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Program) said “We learned long ago that food works only so long. What the dog really wants you to do is play with it.”
So, for these canines “their positive rewards are generally a ball or rubber toy rather than food”, while treat-filled puzzle toys provide comfort after “aggression” training exercises and stimulation for their incredibly active minds.
A fully trained military dog has a “worth” over $150,000 – but these four-legged brothers and sisters in arms are valuable not just for their service. They provide peace of mind for their fellow troops and bravely put their life on the line 24/7 for their human handlers– that’s priceless!
Without a doubt, these dogs are among our most effective counter measures against terrorists and explosives.
I think Rolfe summed it up brilliantly when he said “Dogs possess something a machine probably never will: immense loyalty and a desire to please. A machine doesn’t care if it finds something, but a dog wants to please its handler. A dog will go looking for something on its own where a machine won’t.”
The bottom line, he said, is that “dogs have a heart — something that makes them an invaluable asset to our fighting forces.”
So especially today, our thoughts go out to our wonderful, brave K-9 Military. Thanks for helping keep our great country safe – we owe you a debt beyond words.
What you may be surprised to learn is that many of these special dogs are taken from rescue shelters and it costs more than $15000 to train them for special, and particularly life-threatening duties, all over the world. They have super-human eyesight, hearing and sense of smell, which makes them an invaluable member of any team.
They work 60 hours a week, with on-call shifts of 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – but they don’t receive a paycheck, to go towards their retirement or pay for meds to ease the pain of arthritis, a common condition as a result of their intense and physical work demands!
It doesn’t bear thinking about that, until 2000, these military working dogs were simply viewed as “surplus equipment” and it was legal and common practice to abandon or put down military working dogs at the end of their useful service.
Thankfully, the law changed and now there is a requirement to repatriate them and priority for their adoption is given to their previous handler to see out their retirement with their best friend.
Sadly, this isn’t always the case; often their handler is simply unable to take their service buddy home with them. We can only imagine the desolation and confusion those loyal dogs suffer, being separated from their team and their devoted handlers.
The good news is that many of these special animals are eligible for adoption and are placed into appropriate and loving homes. So, if you think you could provide a happy retirement home for one of these loyal 4-legged patriots, you can learn more about it here:
I would just like to say thanks to the late Joe White, founder of the K9 Veteran Day tribute, for bringing this plight to our attention and reminding us that these K9 Veterans “Served to Save, and they deserve to be remembered”.
We salute each and every one of you!
Wishing you and your canine companions the best of health and keep each other safe!
Helen Broadley & the FidoActive Team
FidoActive also supports the amazing work of many community rescue shelters across the USA through product donations, to help get their furry residents in tip-top condition whilst waiting for their forever home.
You can find out more about FidoActive on their website www.fidoactive.com
Fido means faithful & loyal– a quality that your dog gives unconditionally
Active is what we want every dog to be!