Some dogs stand guard awaiting the sound of a familiar engine, a key inserted into a lock, and the welcoming greeting from an owner. Not all canines have such a life. For roughly 2,500 dogs chosen and trained in bomb, weapon, and drug detection, tracking, and attacking the enemy, their “service” is connected to a contract in the United States or in overseas deployment. Accompanying a group on an often-dangerous mission, a dog trained for accuracy in detection or tracking can offer peace of mind and additional safety. Later, the days of retirement are unknown. There is the hope of comfort and loving care, a warm bed, and a human to follow if a service dog is fortunate to live with his handler or become adopted!
Remmy, the War Hero
Only the best will do for the Army. Possessing a keen focus and the ability to learn quickly, the Dutch Shepherd puppy named Remmy was selected to go through rigorous training in the PEDD program as a Patrol Explosive Detection Dog. The slightly built canine served four years as a military contractor in Afghanistan alongside his handler, Dan Traeder. For “biting to kill” members of the Taliban and preventing 12 US troops from entering a hut rigged with explosives, Remmy earned respect and love from his comrades.
Once a military service working dog is retired and put up for adoption, little if anything is ever known about its past history or the identity of its handler.
A Sweet Retirement
Not all dogs and handlers have the good fortune to come home together. When a handler is injured, service dogs continue to work. After an attack from an Afghan dog, Remmy returned to the United States to heal. Fortunately, Remmy had a happy ending.
In one year, up to 400 service dogs are retired; however, some are separated from their handlers, causing financial and logistic difficulty for the service dog to come home. Realizing this need, a variety of non-profit organizations have joined forces with volunteers to bring our canine heroes home.
Starting the Process of Adoption
Dogs which are well socialized and have perfect house manners are in high demand. It takes a particular person to adopt a retired service dog which has served in the field of military or police guide, or therapy. The nonprofit organization “Mission K9 Rescue” placed Remmy into the care of an experienced dog handler; however, civilian adoptions are also possible. Begin by contacting a military base or training center to inquire if they have a working or service dog available to be adopted. But depending on the location, some adoption agencies have a waiting list of names stretching out for months and sometimes years.
The process begins with a detailed background check and written evaluation about each member of the household, and the intended care for the dog. As a beloved service member, it is vital the right person can understand the canine’s experiences, disposition, and health difficulties to provide a sympathetic and loving environment. As an older dog, he may not have abundant golden years left.
Breeds such as German and Belgian Shepherds, Spaniels, and Labradors are choices for specialized training; however, more than 70% will not pass the requirements to be placed with an owner and labeled a training drop-out. Adopting a younger dog, whose career ended because of temperament, such as not being able to perform during stressful conditions, or having health conditions such as hip dysplasia, is another option for rescuing a service dog.
A family dog may have the right level of aggression and excitability to be professionally trained. Not far from home, dog owners may discover a dog training school taught by a retired K9 handler. Rather than being placed on a list to adopt, your dog could be trained to learn basic obedience, search and rescue, therapy skills, and advanced protection training. Dogs are fit for a specific service. In some cases, families pursue specialized training to give their canine a purpose!
To learn more about Remmy’s story, please consider reading Priscilla Miller’s book titled, “Remmy: A Hero Dog of War.” All proceeds from the sale support the non-profit organizations “Mission K-9 Rescue” and “Operation Warrior’s Path.”