The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that it was paying tribute to military working dogs by issuing a stamp in their honor. It is well-deserved and a project our organization supported and applauds. We should never forget their service as these four-legged warriors courageously risk their lives every day. The stamps feature the German shepherd, Labrador retriever, Belgian malinois and Dutch shepherd that commonly serve in the U.S. military.
More than 2,300 military working dogs serve on U.S. military bases worldwide. They work like a soldier in every way, shape and form, and are the most important animal in war today with their incredible sense of smell to sniff out bombs before detonation. It has been estimated that a highly trained military dog can save the lives of up to 150 to 200 service men and women during its career.
The new stamp offers a visual reminder of their work and sacrifice. Its unveiling also provides a call to action opportunity for what more we can do for these heroic K9s, specifically reuniting more retired military dogs who are left overseas with their former handlers. The bond between military dogs and their handlers is cemented during deployments and in war where one can’t work or survive without the other.
After years of being classified as “equipment” and thousands of military dogs being disposed of or left overseas, American Humane worked with Congress to require that military working dogs be brought back to U.S. soil upon retirement and that their handlers and families should be given first rights of adoption. The benefits to both soldier and dog are immeasurable. Unfortunately, these canine veterans are still sometimes separated from their human counterpart. We need a greater commitment to reuniting these military pairs. It’s the very least our country— and we — can do in return.
One reunification our organization recently arranged was with 9-year-old German shepherd Bakk, who bravely served seven years as a patrol dog protecting our troops in South Korea. Bakk was retiring from service and his former handler, U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Dustin Cain, wanted to adopt him. “I couldn’t have asked for a better partner on those cold and rainy nights. He was always watching and listening ready to alert on any abnormality,” Cain said. “He was my protector and greatest friend while I was away from my family.”
We arranged to fly Bakk from South Korea to California and then drove him to Iowa for an emotional reunification. Bakk is now with his forever family at their house on the Mountain Home Air Force Base, where Cain continues to serve. To assist our military families, we are covering the costs Bakk’s veterinary care for the remainder of his life.
That’s one success story but we know more military working dogs will need similar help. Let’s ensure that K-9 veterans receive the hero’s welcome, dignified retirement, and loving home they so richly deserve. America’s four-legged military dogs serve us. We need to improve our service to them.
Robin Ganzert is the president and CEO of American Humane. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.