Veteran’s Day is a holiday that all Americans recognize, celebrating the end of World War I and honoring all veterans who have served our country during all wars. However, a less known holiday is coming up on March 13th and that is K9 Veterans Day. It is on this day that we celebrate and commemorate the Military Working Dogs (MWDs) that have stood by our soldiers throughout history.
Dogs became an official part of the Military 75 years ago through The War Dog Program, also known as the "K9 Corps." It began when stray dogs crossed paths with the U.S. Army soldiers who took them in as companions during both World War I and World War II. These dogs quickly made lasting impacts and proved that they could be more than just companions, aiding soldiers in a number of military tasks. Some of these tasks were in the field such as bomb detection, search and rescue, explosives detection, scout and patrol, but others had a more cathartic job such as helping injured soldiers.
When we think of Military Dogs, for many of us, our first thought is large dog breeds like German Shepherd Dogs, or Belgian Malinois, similar to those we see as police K9s. However, Military Dogs come in many shapes and sizes and one of the most well-known MWDs was Smoky, a female Yorkshire Terrier, that was rescued from a foxhole during World War II. She was brought into camp and brought happiness to injured soldiers. She even visited on-site hospitals and was a great companion and beacon of hope for soldiers. Another highly decorated Military Working Dog was Gander, the enormous Newfoundland. He was used to scare off Japanese soldiers by playing fetch with a Japanese hand grenade; this technique saved his unit. Gander was later promoted to sergeant of a Royal Canadian rifle team.
Today, we celebrate and honor all veteran K9 working dogs who have helped in times of need. Currently there are over 2,500 active military dogs. They assist almost every branch of the Military in additional to Police, Border Patrol, Secret Service, Airport Service and FBI K9s. They work alongside their human handlers everyday to serve and protect our country.
Here at Link AKC, we celebrate the unexplainable bond between human and dog. The attachment that we create with our dogs is unlike any other. We rely on our dogs for support, comfort, friendship and even humor. Meanwhile, there are a number of canine's that provide these same things for active soldiers in addition to a level of protection that is unimaginable. In upcoming issues of the Wanderer, we will feature stories about Military Working Dogs and their handlers, shedding light on these amazing partnerships, and further investigate the relationship between human and dog.