On March 13, 2020, we will celebrate K9 Veterans Day! This is the day when we honor all military dogs, active and retired.
History of the K9 Corps
In March of 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the US Army began training dogs for the “K9 Corps.” Later that same year, the QMC expanded its K9 training to include service dogs for the US Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. These dogs were trained in basic obedience and went on through one of four specialized programs to prepare them for work as sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs or mine-detection dogs.
For the past seventy-eight years, loyal K9s have been protecting the military and civilians by alerting their people to possible danger. Currently, they serve in a wide variety of areas from Border Patrol to Customs, Secret Service to the FBI. Most of today’s military K9 dogs are bomb-sniffing dogs. These dogs work hard to save and protect Americans and our homeland.
So, how can we support and recognize these amazing four-legged heroes who often go unnoticed and do not receive the same assistance as their two-legged counterparts? Here are a few ways…
How you can help K-9 veterans
Donate care package items
The US War Dogs Association sends out care packages to dog teams around the world every day. The packages contain items for people and military dogs. Some care package items in high demand are K9 Advantix II flea, tick, and mosquito prevention treatment, oatmeal dog shampoo, and dog toothbrush and toothpaste. To donate, see their list of needed items or simply click the donate button to donate money to fund the care packages.
Adopt a military K9
Although military dog handlers are given priority when it comes to adopting retired military dogs, some are unable to continue to care for them. These dogs need a forever home where they can feel safe and cared for. Kristen Maurer of Mission K9 Rescue puts it best when she says, “They deserve a chance on a couch—a chance to be a dog—and that’s what our facility does; we bring them into our care, and we help them.”
Help fund essential health programs
Because military dogs begin training at a young age and work their bodies to the extreme, they tend to have health issues by the time they retire. Often their spine, hips, and knees are in poor shape and they may require extra medical care. When military dogs retire, they no longer receive government support, so their owners must rely on assistance from nonprofit groups to help pay for medical costs. Many K9s experience PTSD just like their human counterparts.
US War Dogs not only sends care packages, but also provides free pet meds and wheel carts for dogs with injured legs. A recent program of theirs, Project Thunderstorm, distributes items like the ThunderShirts anxiety jacket for dogs, ThunderEssence dog calming mist and calming chews to dogs in need (with a veterinarian’s approval).
Write to elected officials
If you want to support K9 veterans, but are unable to give financially, you can still help! Write a letter to your local government official to request funding for organizations that assist veteran K9s and for individuals who care for retired military dogs. You can also write a thank you note to a retired K9, letting the dog (and owner) know how much you appreciate his/her service.
Thank the K9 heroes in your community!
These heroic K9s often put their lives on the line, sniffing for bombs, alerting their teams to danger, and/or serving as messengers. Let’s take a minute of our day to recognize them for their hard work and to honor them for giving their lives to serve their country!