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These dogs deserve a salute!

By Rhona Melsky
February 24, 2021
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K-9 dog licks face of army soldier
Credit: Courtesy of Fisher House Foundation

Heroes come in many forms, and at Daily Paws we always remember to celebrate those of the canine veteran kind as well. Military working dogs (MWDs) are a breed unto themselves. While we recognize them every day for their service, we want to give these extraordinary dogs who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces a special shout out on National K9 Veterans Day, which is March 13.

While military dogs have worked alongside soldiers for a long time, their partnership in the U.S. military became official on March 13, 1942 when the U.S. Army started to train them for a new program called the K-9 Corps. These courageous dogs were trained for the military and continue to protect and save lives.

According to the United States War Dogs Association, some of the roles for today's military working dogs include:

  • Sentry dogs
  • Scout or patrol dogs
  • Messenger dogs
  • Mine dogs
  • Casualty dogs
  • Tunnel dogs
  • Explosives detection
Betty White with Chuck and Gabe
Gabe, a former rescue puppy who became a life-saving Specialized Search Dog for the United States Army, with handler U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Chuck Shuck and Betty White at the 2012 American Humane Hero Dog Awards.
| Credit: Courtesy of American Humane

MWDs do so much to help their handlers and give their all no matter the situation. So, what's not to love about these canine veterans? Here are just a few of the reasons we salute these four-legged, un-fur-gettable heroes.

1. Their Bravery Has No Bounds Throughout History

In 1917, Pvt. J. Robert Conroy became attached to a stray brindle mixed puppy after the pooch came onto the field at Camp Yale where Conroy was doing basic training. Conroy got this special dog named Stubby into the WWI service by smuggling him on the SS Minnesota. Serving as the "mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division," Stubby was a quick study and helped lift morale. Not only did he learn drills, he also learned to give his own dog salute. But it was his bravery on the front lines, locating the wounded soldiers and capturing an enemy that left his mark in history so that he is now lovingly known as "Sgt. Stubby".

2. K9 Veterans Are Courageous

Enlisted into the Army in August 1942 by owner Edward J. Wren, Chips trained at the War Dog Training Center. A mix of German shepherd, collie, and husky, the sentry dog showed immense courage by alerting Pvt. John R. Rowell to infiltration by the enemy. Chips' heroics made him the "the most famous and decorated sentry dog in World War II."

3. They Have Exceptional Skills

MWD Rrobiek, a Belgian Malinois, worked with his military dog handler Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin from 2014 until 2017. Rrobiek was patrol and explosives certified. Together they were deployed to Iraq and Syria to support government agencies on a variety of missions, including a visit to Kenya with President Obama.

Staff Sgt. Charles Odin bonds with military working dog Rrobiek
Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin bonds with his military working dog Rrobiek during work in Baghdad in 2017.
| Credit: Sgt. Anna Pongo

4. Their Loyalty and Strong Work Ethic Go Hand in Paw

"They are so eager and loyal to please and be rewarded," says Krystal Tronboll, executive director of the Ddamien Project and a former Navy dog handler. MWDs want to make their handlers happy and want engagement. "That type of intense loyalty and work ethic—I've never seen anything like it," she says.

Krystal Tronboll and military working dog Zorro dock diving
Krystal Tronboll and military working dog Zorro P793 from Edwards AFB doing dock diving at an event.
| Credit: Keith Leo Photography

5. Military K9s Are Good Decision Makers

The dogs train hard and are often in tough situations. "When everything gets really serious those dogs are super intense and committed to getting that job done and to protect their handler," Tronboll says.

6. Military Canines Keep Service Men and Women Safe

"With noses that are 100,000 times more sensitive than ours, giving them an unparalleled ability to sniff out and detect weapons caches and improvised explosive devices, it is estimated that each military working dog saves the lives of between 150–200 service members," says Robin Ganzert, Ph.D, president and CEO of American Humane.

7. They Give It Their All

Marine Corps Sgt. Brianna George worked with Zoran, a German shepherd who was trained as a Patrol Explosive Detector Dog. "These dogs are always ready to go 24/7," George says of the dogs who give their all to military service. From the time they start training until retirement they are always ready to work and give 110 percent.

Marine Corps Sgt. Brianna George with military working dog Zoran
Marine Corps Sgt. Brianna George with military working dog Zoran.
| Credit: Courtesy of Marine Corps Sgt. Brianna George

8. They Are Resilient

MWDs who search for explosives face a lot of hard work as Zoran did alongside George. It takes a toll on the body. "He kept the base safe and worked four and five days a week for 12 hours a day constantly searching aircraft," says George who has since adopted retired Zoran.

9. What They Do Is Invaluable

"They do things that cannot be replicated by machines or technology," Ogin says. "They are a living breathing entity that feels and experiences the same things us veterans do. They don't demand much more than food, water, and a little bit of love to do the things that they are asked to do." Today, Rrobiek keeps a spot on Ogin's couch, living out the rest of his days in much-deserved retirement.

Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin and family are reunified with military work dog Rrobiek
Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin and family were reunited with military working dog Rrobiek with help from American Humane.
| Credit: Courtesy of American Humane

10. Military K9s Are Heroes Through and Through

"Military dogs Cairo and Conan helped take down Osama Bin Laden and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during raids in 2011 and 2019," Ganzert says.

There's an undeniable relationship between people and dogs. "For thousands of years, dogs have comforted us, protected us, and given us their unconditional love," Ganzert says. "Time and time again through the ages they have proven why they are considered our best friends. And nowhere has that remarkable bond between dogs and people been more critical than on the battlefield."

Our K9 veteran heroes work hard alongside their handlers. Their intelligence and determination make them the amazing dogs they are. So, let's celebrate these wonder dogs and take time out on March 13 to honor them for their service.