When we envision the people protecting our country, men and women in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy often come to mind. However, our country is also protected by dogs who serve in war zones and help their human counterparts.
Military working dogs (MWD) have been serving our country since World War I. Here are five things you might not know about these furry heroes.
- They are trained early. Dogs are trained extensively from birth to gain their MWD certification from the U.S. Department of Defense. Some dogs are designated for the field, which may include bomb detection and jumping out of helicopters. Others become therapy dogs for servicemembers.
- Many served in Vietnam. Nearly 5,000 military working dogs accompanied servicemembers during the Vietnam War. However, only about 200 dogs left the country after a 10-year period. Many died, while others were left behind.
- Occasionally, they become famous. Cairo, a highly trained Belgian Malinois dog, received attention for helping a Navy SEAL team in the raid that located and killed Osama bin Laden.
“These dogs act as a first line of defense against enemy threats because they can smell things and go places that humans can’t.” —Tech. Sgt. Roseann Kelly in the foreword for Dogs Who Serve: Incredible Stories of Our Canine Military Heroes.
- They retire early. Because of the physical demands, these canines usually retire by the age of 10. Like their human counterparts, they’re often treated to retirement parties.
- After retirement, they often are adopted. Before 2000, many military working dogs were euthanized. “Robby’s Law,” enacted that same year, allowed adoption of the dogs. The dog’s handler usually has the first priority for adoption; the process is then opened to other military servicemembers or civilians.
For more information, check out the February 2017 issue of Auxiliary magazine.