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The Forgotten Soldier - Combat Dogs

War is an emotional and often brutal business. It becomes even more so on a personal level for those who are related to those brave soldiers who, by merely stepping into a uniform, put their lives in immense danger on a daily basis. A soldier’s life is not an easy one and the impact of war during and after service can be devastating to themselves, their families and loved ones.

As our time in Afghanistan comes to a close, for those soldiers who manage to make it home, special welcome events and readjustment plans are often the norm. Perhaps, a vibrant town parade should be a mandatory welcome home for all soldiers, but for the ones who don’t get to ride high on colorful floats with an American flag in hand, hopefully every community can offer post-war support in the form of job training, PTSD assistance, family counseling, etc. Returning from war is a tough adjustment period where soldiers must learn how to reenter the civilian world and this can be an uphill battle for many.

Not All Solders Are Afford the Same Welcome Home
There is, however, one soldier that rarely receives even the slightest accolade or post-war treatment upon arrival. Arguably the most loyal and courageous warriors on the battle field, military dogs play a major part in protecting our freedoms and rarely receive attention for their dutiful years of service. It goes much deeper than just order pet meds online.

These dogs are not your ordinary mascot, eagerly waiting to play fetch when the soldiers get home from the battlefield. Combat dogs are highly trained soldiers that continually risk their lives in times of war. Often used for foot patrols, search and rescue, tracking and pursuit, these dogs have one exceptional ability that has yet to be bested by human ability or technology: their keen sense of smell. These canines are often the first ones to step onto hostile territory sniffing out homemade bombs, which are responsible for the vast majority of causalities in Afghanistan.

Recently gaining notoriety since the raid on Bin Laden’s camp in 2011, these military canines add a touch of “aww” to the incurable pain that comes with seemingly endless years of war. But, it’s not all puppy love and treats for these dogs.

These are highly trained canine soldiers and they have an immense value in what they do, actively saving lives every day. Today, there are over 2,700 registered war dogs in the US military and about 800 were specially trained for war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Their loyalty is never ending; their service immeasurable and their spirit unbreakable, but what happens to these fierce canine veterans when the papers are signed and the tanks roll out?
The life of a combat dog is relatively short, usually retiring at the age of 8 or 9 and after their years of service. Previously, military dogs were often thought of as “surplus equipment” and cruelly put to sleep after their service was completed. Thankfully, we are now seeing a much more humane side to placing these heroes in a loving home which they deserve. In 2000, then President Bill Clinton passed the Robby’s Law (H.R.5314), requiring that all military dogs that are suitable for adoption must be placed in a loving home if possible.

Adopting a war dog does have its unique problems, though. Most of these dogs have been through a traumatic time and will probably have unique needs. Before adopting one of these heroic dogs, make sure that you contact a service that specializes in adoption of military dogs. Military Working Dog Adoptions and Lackland Air Force Base are both great organizations to get information on military dog adoption.

In addition to adoption, one of the best options is to have the dog’s handler bring its military canine companion home when the soldier is granted permanent leave. Handlers create strong bonds with these dogs during combat and it’s common that they make room for their canine colleague in their new civilian life. This is perhaps the best case scenario because it’s highly therapeutic for both the soldier and the dog during the civilian readjustment period.

It’s clear that these dogs are more than just war mascots; they are dutiful and loyal soldiers who protect our liberties every day. These silent and fearless canines deserve our respect and admiration and even more so, a place to run around and live out their civilian years with a loving family. Why not support these beautiful animals and adopt a war dog today?