Looking back in history, I was researching what events happened in March to give me ideas about stories to write, and I stumbled across one I had not heard of. On March 13, 1942, the United States officially recognized the military working dog by creating the K9 Corps. There have been dogs, along with horses, mules and pigeons, that have been used in battles all along, but now they were their own unit.
“The Guard dog was incorruptible, the police dog dependable, the messenger dog reliable. The human watchman might be bought, not so the dog,” says Ernest Harold Baynes, author of “Animal Heroes of the Great War.” “The soldier sentinel might fall asleep; never the dog. The battlefield runner might fail, but not the dog, to his last breath he would follow his line of duty.”
Dogs like Sergeant Stubby who was both the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be nominated and promoted to the rank of sergeant through combat. He served with the 102 Infantry for 18 months. During this time, he participated in four offensives and 17 battles. He was injured several times, but always seem to recover and return to his regiment.
Sergeant Stubby had his own specially designed gas mask so he could return to the trenches with his regiment when there were mustard gas attacks. He was able to give warnings of the poison gas attacks, help locate the wounded soldiers and alert his unit to incoming artillery shells.
A military war dog, or military working dog, is trained to sniff out explosive devices, locate weapon caches downrange, guard against the entry of illegal narcotics or substances into military installations. They are exposed to a variety of simulated war scenarios that include explosions, fire, machine guns and rifle fire. These dogs must also scale walls, navigate underground tunnels and climb ladders without showing hesitations or distress.
MWDs are trained to perform a wide variety of critical and often dangerous specialties, such as sledge dogs who find downed airmen in snow and inaccessible regions. Pack dogs transport up to 40-pound loads of supplies between field units, including guns, ammo and food. Tracker dogs are taught to track and find. Mine and bomb dogs find explosives. Tunnel and trap detector dogs find tunnels, booby traps and mines.
Sentry dogs assist with guard duty and warn of trespassers. Attack dogs are used to apprehend suspects. Tactical dogs are trained for combat situations. Silent scout dogs warn handlers of proximity to enemy troops without barking or growling during recon. Messenger dogs deliver messages during combat. And casualty dogs find wounded persons either on the battlefield or in debris.
K9 Veterans Day was created by Joe White of Jacksonville, Florida. He was a Vietnam War Veteran and a K9 handler and trainer.
And what about when the soldier comes home? America’s Vet Dogs has built a cooperative relationship with the military and the department of Veterans Affairs and a premier organization that provides assistance dogs and training to disabled veterans and active service members. Vetdogs continually strive to increase the options and services for the veterans to ensure that they receive all the tools they need to once again be self-reliant. Vetdogs has placed physical and occupational therapy dogs in military centers including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to work with service members recovering from amputations, physical injuries, PTSD, hearing, vision loss or seizures. The working dog is still trained to help the soldier, on the battlefield and when they return home. Visit vetdogs.org for more information.
So what can you do to observe K9 Veterans Day on March 13? Adopt a retired K9 dog. K9 dogs are loved and appreciated, but a lot of times they are left without homes, once their service time ends. There are organizations that will help you find these dogs.
You can also give your own dog a treat. We all cannot adopt a K9 dog, so show your own furry friend how much you love him or her. They will be appreciated it. Or try teaching your dog a new trick. Old dogs can learn, spend time with them, teaching them to shake your hand or sit. A perfect way to celebrate!
Come down to the Lucy Bensley Center on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and see what information you can find that you did not know. Our little town is packed full of events and people who did amazing things. Come down and see what you can find out about them! We are located at 23 North Buffalo St. in Springville. Call us if the weather is iffy to verify we are open at (716) 592-0094 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.