The Dogs of war: Tribute to MWD’s
“CRY HAVOC and let slip the dogs of war!” cries Mark Antony in the Epic play by William Shakespeare. It elicits a very visceral image in my mind. Today I would like to invite you examine the role of Canine service and working dogs in times war.
The history of K-9 in wartime is an interesting one. In a sense their job is relatively unchanged in that they protect their unit, detect explosives, gas, drugs, and enemy soldiers and attack on command. Only the technology has changed. Today’s Military working dogs are outfitted with a vast array of modern technology in order to gather intelligence and relay it to the units they serve with. Most are also wrapped in a stab proof bullet proof Kevlar vest in order to make the dangerous areas they work in a little safer.
PSD Kennels is, at her beating heart, a Military and Police SERVICE organization. Our founder and master trainer Jaime Gascon has served his country first as a Marine and later as a K-9 Peace officer. It has been our HONOR to supply trained K-9 protection dogs for use as both Military Working Dogs and Police Service dogs. For those of you who have served this country as a member of the armed services, We salute you. We appreciate you, and most of all We thank you for your service. It goes without saying this includes our K-9 service members as well.
Did you know that Dogs have been with us in every major military deployment in our countries history? But it wasn’t until WWll that the military powers that be officially recognized the benefit of having k-9 team members. The first Official Military dog was Sergeant Stubby of the 102nd Infantry Yankee Division. Stubby who started as a mascot but proved himself to be invaluable in the field (where he was smuggled onto the battlefield by Private Jay Robert Conway) by sniffing and warning of enemy gas, warning when enemy troops were nearby, and locating wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Sergeant Stubby forged the way for all the military dogs and is a symbol of Heroism and bravery in the Military to this very day.
Today there are approximately 2700 Military Working dogs on active duty with the US military branches and of these, there are approximately 700 currently serving overseas. MWD’s play an important role in our conflict in the Middle East. “They are the single most effective counter measure against Terrorism and Explosives.” claims Dr. Stewart Hilliard, Chief of Military war dog Evaluation at Lackland Air force Base just outside of San Antonio Texas. Lackland AFB is the Epicenter of all things K-9 with Regards to the Military’s working dog program. It houses a 15million dollar surgical treatment facility that boasts top of the line everything for our 4 legged Heroes including an MRI machine better than a lot of hospitals use.
Did you know that About 85% of all Military working dogs are purchased from Europe where these dogs were created to be service and Herding dogs. Unlike the USA which primarily breeds for appearance and the AKC dog show ring (mostly a beauty contest) the European bred dogs have always been intended for work in agriculture, military, or Police Service. These dogs are believed to be made of tougher stuff than their American bred cousins. This is the Primary reason for PSD’s initial and continued purchase of dogs from Europe and our determination to raise and train the same quality of German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch Shepherd here is the USA.
One of the most important jobs for our Military working dogs in the recent Middle East conflicts has been explosives detection. The deadly homemade IED was wreaking havoc on our soldiers and moral until the MSD’s came along and saved the day. Fully trained Explosives Detection dogs come with a hefty price tag estimated at around 150,000. US. But their true Value is in saving American lives and giving our soldiers and their unit’s piece of mind. They are about 98% accurate in their bomb detection which is better than any machine or technology the Military currently possesses so we can look forward to needing more qualified Military Working dogs in the future. The security and bomb detection capabilities render our Canine soldiers Priceless in the eyes of Military Units that have had the opportunity to work with them.
It may surprise you to learn that only about half of the dogs that begin training as Military Working dogs have what it takes to make the grade. Not only must they be great at sniffing out weapons, bombs, drugs, Enemies and trails, they must be comfortable biting enemy combatants when commanded to do so. Many dogs fail because they refuse to bite an actual person. In addition they have to be very motivated to work. The ideal Military working dog will work for many hours (sometimes days) on end and will never quit or give up while his unit is still working. They have to be aggressive and intelligent enough to get the job done yet never belligerent or insubordinate to their handlers. This is the Drive, Determination, and Mental Toughness that makes our MWD’s so special.
When we think of Military Working dogs the image of a German shepherd comes first to our minds and while there are many GSD’s working in Theaters of operations worldwide, in truth the military uses several different breeds. The highly intelligent and very trainable Labrador Retriever is a big favorite. The Infamous Navy Seals prefer the smaller size Belgian Malinois. Much Like the Navy Seals they serve alongside, the Belgian Malinois has earned its reputation as pound for pound, the Toughest Dog in the Universe. Their smaller size makes it easy to parachute behind enemy lines as well as repelling into danger with their handlers. Yes for the record I did actually say parachute and repel into enemy territory……with a Malinois strapped to your chest or attached to you via a short rope! CRAZY RIGHT?
Did you know that MWD’s can also be affected by PTSD? Dogs in war-zones are exposed to severe Emotional as well as physical trauma and not all are capable of handling the harsh job we ask them to do. In addition Veterinarians and Physicians now understand that the IED explosions these Dogs are exposed to causes brain injury that is cumulative. Even if there is no physical damage to the body, a close explosion does brain damage. Between the constant gunfire, the explosives and the real possibility of losing their human Handlers, not to mention getting shot at and possibly blown up themselves, its no wonder that Veterinarians say that 5% ( and the number could be higher) of our MWD’s are showing signs of PTSD.
Since the passing of “Robbys Law” in 2000 There has been a real effort by the DOD to rehabilitate and adopt out Military Working dogs once their duty is over. The base of operations for this project is the Lackland Airforce Base. Their website is http://www.SaveAVet.org and they make every effort to provide veterinary care for the injuries these K-9s have suffered, both mental and Physical, as well as to transition the dogs back into civilian life. Not all of the dogs are suitable for family adoption and that is where this program really shines by pairing Human Veterans with K-9 Veterans. The Program provides both training and free housing on base for Disabled human veterans and they in turn give the dog in their care a quality of life they both so richly deserves. The benefits to both Human and Dog are immeasurable. For the Human Vet he receives a stable home and is given a purpose in caring for these Military Heros who have served with distinction. For the dog, a place to call home and to learn once again that life can be good, Life can be beautiful in fact, especially when you have a buddy to share it with again.
Fox News Story On Save-A-Vet https://youtu.be/pDnF8lk6bI8 via @YouTube
Please check out the Rehabilitation of these amazing unsung 4 legged Heroes of our armed forces at Http://www.SaveAVet.org While the waiting list to adopt is several years long, and preference is given to vets and police officers, there are nonetheless family adoption success stories. Hey we understand that not everybody is prepared to foster or adopt a retired Malinois German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, Or Lab, after Active duty but there are many other ways you can make the life of these Dogs and their handlers a little better. Donations of money are always welcome as are toys and supplies for the dogs. The site has a list of needed equipment and they are always happy to receive any help that you can give.
SO Let us remember the Dogs of War who did not volunteer for the task we have laid at their paws but nonetheless have done it with Honor, Love, and humility that can only come from Mans BEST Friend. Indeed.
I hope you will take some time to check out the amazing stories of our Military Working Dogs.
Respectfully your friends at