Posted by: twodogtales | November 11, 2010

Honoring canine and human vets

On Veteran’s Day the whole country pauses to honor those who serve. I thought it fitting to share a few stories about dogs who are there by the side of active duty soldiers and veterans, helping their human companions through the traumas of war both during and after combat.

Monday’s Washington Post featured a story about Paws for Purple Hearts, an organization that operates out of a Veterans Affairs hospital in California and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) train dogs as service dogs for veterans in wheelchairs. 

Read the story.

To find out how you can help Paws for Purple Hearts, contact Program Director Rick Yount at rick@assistancedog.org or 707-889-3016.

Over the summer I met Dave Sharpe, a local veteran who started a similar program, PETS2VETS. Dave recognized the healing power of pets when his PTSD symptoms were helped following his adoption of a shelter-rescue pit bull mix, Cheyenne. According to their website, since June P2V has placed nearly a dozen dogs with veterans. Read my post about the P2V event at Busboys & Poets in August.   

Photo from the Lackland Air Force Base website

The  Woofs Dog Training Center‘s email newsletter this week had information about the history of dogs serving in war. Unfortunately they don’t have a link to the newsletter on their website, but I’ve excerpted some of the story here:

This Veteran’s Day, WOOFS! would like to honor all our Canine Soldiers, and their handlers, who have dedicated their lives to protect our country. Historically, these courageous pups were trained in one of four categories during a number of wars. Dogs were either trained as scout, infantry, messanger, or sentry dogs. Scout dogs were sent out to silently detect mines and other traps while messanger dogs were trained to carry correspondance and supplies between troops. Infantry dogs were primarily used on the front lines to alert the troops of an enemy’s presence. Sentry dogs, which was the most commonly trained dog during the Vietnam War, were trained to defend the outskirts of camps and other priority areas at night, and even during the day on occasion.

 After the Vietnam War, the use of dogs in the military has been significantly changed in a number of ways. In the 1970s, more than 1,600 dogs were being used by the Airforce worldwide which has now been decresed to only 560 dogs throughout the world. Also, prior to 2000, Military Working Dogs were not permitted to enter into civilian life after they were retired from the military. However, for the last 10 years, civilians have been permitted to adopt a military working dog through Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Lackland AFB is the only Military Working Dog school in the country.

If you are interested in adpoting one of these corageous pups, please visit their website for more information on how to do so.

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