Today we honor our country’s K-9 veterans. Why do we honor these dogs? Because, like our military and policemen, they put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe and deserve our respect for their service alongside their handlers.
Even in ancient times, our ancestors saw dogs for their potential in war and as police dogs. The earliest recorded use of war dogs was in the battle between Alyattes of Lydia and the Cimmerians around 600 BC. They were also used for war by the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Sarmatians, Baganda, Alans, Slavs, Britons, and Romans.
In the USA, the first official use of dogs in warfare was during the Seminole Wars. Dogs were used to protect, send messages, pull carts, and guard prisoners. They were also used as mascots during WWI to promote recruitment.
A Boston Terrier named Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated war dog during WWI and the only one to be promoted to Sergeant or even nominated for rank through combat.
Another dog, a German Shepherd/Collie/Siberian Husky mix, named Chips was the most decorated war dog during WWII. He even received the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart, though they were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals. He was, however, given an unofficial reward by his unit in the form of a ribbon with an arrowhead for an assault landing and battle stars for each of his eight campaigns. There was even a TV movie made about him by Disney in 1990 entitled Chips, the War Dog. I highly recommend this movie. It was one of my favorites as a child and teen. What a great way to celebrate K-9 Veterans Day! I really need to find and watch it again 😉
Unfortunately there are no photos of Chips, but seriously, watch the movie if you can find it!
In the Vietnam war, approximately 5,000 US war dogs served with approximately 10,000 dog handlers. Their units were estimated to have saved over 10,ooo human lives!
US war dogs were traditionally returned to their families after retirement or were adopted into a new family. This was not always the case, however. During the Vietnam war, when war dogs were listed as expendable equipment, the dogs were either euthanized or turned over to an allied army. In 2000, President Bill Clinton approved and signed a law that allowed war dogs to be adopted. This law made the Vietnam War the only war in which war dogs never came home.
There are many memorials dedicated to fallen war dogs. The most notable include March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California, the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, at the Naval Facility, Guam, with replicas at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Alfred M. Gray Marine Corps Research Center in Quantico, Virginia, and the Alabama War Dogs Memorial at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. If you live close to any of these memorials, I recommend going and paying your respects to all of our fallen war dogs in honor of K-9 Veterans Day.
Our veterans are not limited to war dogs. Our veterans also include police dogs, also known as K-9s or K9s. Police dogs partner with a handler in everyday police work and are trained to chase suspects, track them if they’re hidden, and guard them when caught. Trained not to react unless their handler is attacked, in which case they are trained to attack viciously, or if their handler gives a command, police dogs are proven loyal partners of the police force. Police dogs are also often trained to search for drugs and explosives, search for lost people, and look for crime scene evidence. Police dogs are also trained to respond to several hand and verbal commands. The most common breed used for police work is the German Shepherd, though the Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd have become more popular in the present day.
It is a felony offense to injure or kill a police dog.
Although technically any breed can be trained as a police dog, the most popular breeds used in police work are German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, Beagles, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, English Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Springer Spaniels, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Labrador Retrievers. Each breed is usually trained in certain, very specific areas of police work.
German Shepherds are the most versatile and are trained as protection dogs, attack dogs, and ground based and air based tracking dogs. They’re also trained to locate human remains, drugs, IEDs, and evidence.
Basset Hounds are usually trained in locating bombs and narcotics.
Bloodhounds are trained in odor-specific ID, tracking, and locating bombs, drugs, and evidence.
Beagles are trained in locating bombs and drugs and are used worldwide.
Belgian Malinois are the second most versatile breed used in police work and are trained as protection and attack dogs, and guard dogs for prisoner transport. They’re also trained in locating IEDs, evidence, drugs, and even humans.
Dutch Shepherds are trained primarily as protection and attack dogs.
English Cocker Spaniels are trained to locate firearms, bombs, money, and drugs.
Doberman Pinschers are trained as protection and attack dogs.
Springer Spaniels are usually trained to locate bombs and drugs.
German Shorthaired Pointers are trained in ground and air based tracking and locating drugs and evidence.
Labrador Retrievers are trained to locate bombs and drugs.
When looking for a successful police dog, trainers look for dogs that are intelligent, aggressive, strong, and have an exceptional sense of smell. Most police dogs are male and are left un-neutered to better retain their aggressive behavior. Female police dogs are more often used for rescue, tracking, and locating bombs or drugs.
Police dogs retire if they become injured to the extent that they can no longer adequately perform their duties and will never completely recover, become pregnant, are raising puppies, or become to old or sick to continue working. If they are killed in the line of duty they receive the same honors as their human partners. The handler, if present, makes all decisions regarding their K-9 partner.
If you would like to adopt a retired war or police dog, one such place you can apply for adoption is at the Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. Please review the Military Working Dog Adoptions FAQs here: http://www.uswardogs.org/mwd-adoptions-faqs/
You can contact Mission K9 Rescue, a non-profit organization, to discuss the adoption or re-homing of a retired war or police dog, here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/MissionK9/about/?ref=page_internal
Happy K-9 Veterans Day!!
Have you adopted a retired police or war dog? Tell us about him/her in the comments below!
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