When American service men and women finish their tours of duty overseas they return home, often to a hero's welcome. For their canine comrades on the front lines, it's a different story.
Regular listeners may remember the story of Carlos, a military dog and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Like so many others, Carlos is credited with saving the lives of countless American soldiers. He was one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog of the Year for 2013, representing the Military Dog category.
This week, Carlos along with several of his canine buddies and their handlers paid a visit to Capitol Hill. Their mission? They went to ask legislators, news media and all Americans to make sure all military dogs are cared for not just while they are working, but after they retire, as well.
There are more than 2,500 military dogs working beside soldiers. They are trained to sniff out weapons, work checkpoints and assist on patrols. But when their tour of service is over, unlike their human counterparts most of the animals are not given military transport home because they are categorized as equipment – which makes them disposable. The veterans who worked with these dogs do not consider them “equipment” but heroes. Even though many would like to adopt their canine comrades, the cost to bring an animal home on a commercial flight can be pretty steep.
The American Humane Association and Mission K9 Rescue have worked to raise funds to help veterans bring their faithful canine heroes back to the U.S. And now they accompanied Carlos and his friends to persuade the Department of Defense to reclassify military dogs as soldiers, give them proper military transport out of war zones, and allow them to be adopted. And they’re asking that the animals’ former handlers be given first chance to adopt them.
You can find more information about the plight of service dogs and the efforts on their behalf by visiting the American Humane Association’s Facebook page, or the Mission K9 Rescue website at missionK9rescue.org.
After a lifetime of service to their country, all four-footed soldiers may finally be assured of the chance to retire to a loving forever American home. And isn’t that what we all want for our furry friends, when we’re speaking of service dogs or our very own pets!