March 8, 2016 Meredith Whiten

K9 Veterans Day – Honoring Military Working Dogs

A Military War Dog (MWD) is a canine trained to keep servicemen and women safe from harm. These dogs brave poisonous gases, bomb blasts, and the threat of shrapnel, risking their own lives in the name of protection and loyalty. Though skillfully selected and highly trained, these animals posses no greater ability to be brave than any other–their courage is simply born of love. Ernest Harold Baynes in Animal Heroes of the Great War wrote:

“The guard dog was incorruptible; the police dog dependable; the messenger dog reliable. The human watchman might be bought; not so the dog. The soldier sentinel might fall asleep; never the dog. The battlefield runner might fail … but not the dog, to his last breath would follow the line of duty.”

March 13 is K9 Veterans Day. On this day we pay homage to our four-legged soldiers and we honor their faithful service.

Dogs began to be established as Military K9s by the U.S. Military during World War I.  So needed were military dogs that American families donated their dogs to aid our troops during the war. Canines weren’t officially adopted into U.S. military ranks, though, until 1942 with the Army’s Dogs for Defense program. This program trained 10,000 dogs in World War II and during the Vietnam War, scout dogs saved over 2,000 lives. MWDs proved to be so successful in Vietnam that bounties upwards of $20,000 were placed on their heads.

The U.S. military used military dogs in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Today all branches of the United States Armed Forces use military K9s and to date, upwards of 3,000 specialty trained canines are stationed around the world. They guard and protect our servicemen by patrolling air bases, military compounds, ammunition depots, and military check points, as well as leading patrols and clearing minefields with unparalleled courage and loyalty.

At the onset of the Military Working Dog program (Dogs for Defense), the military sought a rather lengthy list of dog breeds for their companions.

k9 veterans day - Breeds of military dogs before 1960

Since then, the American military has narrowed the preferred breeds for military K9s down to three.

K9 veterans day - current breeds of military dogs

Once chosen and screened, each Military War Dog is then given a specialty based on their specific abilities and strengths.

k9 veterans day - k9 specialties

Today, the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas is responsible for training and assigning all dogs in the Military War Dog program. The 341st then ships them to military installations worldwide following their training. The training base consists of 62 training areas over 3,350 acres and holds 691 kennel spaces with an average population of over 400 dogs.

The K9s are exposed to simulated war scenes, subjected to rifle fire, machine gun fire, live fire, and explosions in order to test their bravery before assignment. Additionally, each dog must successfully navigate underground tunnels, climb ladders, and scale walls  fearlessly.

To date, there are three MWDs that are recognized as being the most highly decorated.

K9 veterans day - World War I

K9 veterans day - World War I (1)

K9 veterans day - World War I (2)

K9 Veterans Day – How Can We Help?

Though it is an honor to finally have a specific day set aside for our military K9s, our four-legged heroes deserve more appreciation than one single day. Do more by sending care packages to our furry soldiers through Operation Military K-9:

k9 veterans day

Items needed - K9 veterans day

Often aptly referred to as “force multipliers,” Military War Dogs are so much more than a simple asset or tool. They are compatriots, loyal partners, and steadfast warriors that will at any moment fearlessly lay their lives down in the name of protection. Each fantastic feat they accomplish is not done out of force or fear; it is born 100% out of love. Take some time today on their well-deserved K9 Veterans Day to honor their service. Thank a soldier and tonight, hold your own furry companions just a little tighter.

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