Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Category: Military Working Dogs


K9 Veterans Memorial

Today is an especially fitting day to share photos of the K9 Veterans Memorial. Because today is K9 Veterans Day

Established on March 13, it’s the anniversary of the 1942 founding of the United States Army K9 Corps. If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know I’ve recognized K9 Veterans Day several times.

Some background on the K9 Veterans Memorial

Here are two views of the Mark Dziewior dog sculpture at the heart of the K9 Veterans Memorial.
Views of the K9 Veterans Memorial in Fort Atkinson, WI. Mark Dziewior sculpted the bronze dog. The Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson conceived of the project, conducted the fundraising drive, and installed the memorial. Photos are from Facebook.

The K9 Veterans Memorial’s centerpiece is the sculpture Unbreakable BondWisconsin animal sculptor Mark Dziewior created a touching vision in bronze.

It’s in McCoy Park in Fort Atkinson, WI. The local Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson (KCFA) takes their K9 veterans very seriously. 

An honor guard from the Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson attends a ceremony at the K9 Veterans Memorial on March 9, 2020.
An honor guard from the Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson, WI, attends a ceremony at the K9 Veterans Memorial. The photo date is March 9, 2020. (Photo from Facebook)

They not only sponsored the creation of the K9 Veterans Memorial in McCoy Park (dedicated June 25, 2017). A couple of years earlier, they spearheaded an effort to get K9 Veterans Day officially recognized in the State of Wisconsin, in 2015.

A couple of deputies pose by the K9 Veterans Memorial with their K9s.
A couple of deputies pose by the K9 Veterans Memorial with their K9s on March 12, 2019. The men are identified as ED and KC. Their dogs are Friday and Nox. (Photo from Facebook).

A day dedicated to Military Working Dogs

The Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson and a lot of law enforcement handlers and K9s appeared at the Wisconsin Capitol in 2015.
The Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson and a lot of law enforcement handlers and K9s. They appeared at the Wisconsin Capitol in 2015 to gain state recognition of K9 Veterans Day. (Photo from the Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson).

Don’t confuse K9 Veterans Day with National Police K9 Day. That’s celebrated on September 1, according to one of my favorite K9 charities, Vested Interest in K9s

Military Working Dogs face specific challenges and dangers that police K9s don’t. Just like human veterans, some of them retire to pursue law enforcement careers. So it’s easy for a layperson to think they’re basically the same.

And, like law enforcement K9s, today’s Military Working Dogs or MWDs are usually one of a few main breeds. It’s another reason laypersons may confuse them.

Here's another look at the K9 handlers in the Wisconsin Capitol.
Another look at the K9 handlers in the Wisconsin Capitol in 2015. They went to urge recognition of K9 Veterans Day. (Photo from the Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson

Typical breeds for MWDs

The brilliant SEAL Team 6 dog Cairo was a Belgian Malinois. Malinois mixes also make up a percentage of MWDs. They’re not show dogs. The armed forces don’t care about breed standards. So they sometimes create crossbreeds for specific purposes.

People know less about Dutch Shepherds, but everyone knows the versatile, ever-popular German Shepherds.

The Armed Forces also frequently use one of the retriever breeds for scent detection. Labradors are their favorites, but they also sometimes use Golden and Chesapeake.

Trained to do any of a dizzying number of tasks, MWDs’ skills range from single-purpose to a range of tasks required for Navy SEAL or CIA work.

This quote from Susan Orlean says, "Dogs are really the perfect soldiers. They are brave and smart; they can smell through walls, see in the dark, and eat Army rations without complaint."
This Susan Orlean Quote comes from GetintoPC.

How can we civilians honor and help K9 veterans?

We keep awareness alive with installations such as the K9 Veterans Memorial. They help us focus on the issues surrounding retired Military Working Dogs.

And we’ve achieved positive results. Our efforts to recognize these dogs’ gallantry, service, and often immense sacrifices already have caused changes.

The Armed Services still classify them as “equipment.” But since the year 2000 they’re no longer abandoned on the battlefield or euthanized. When they’re too old or traumatized or wounded to serve anymore we bring them home.

Civilian and handler outrage made a difference. Most MWDs are now adopted by a former handler. As I noted above, some have second careers in law enforcement.

But all too many MWDs, like all too many human soldiers, go home wounded and traumatized

This is where organizations like Mission K9 Rescue and specialized programs from groups such as American Humane can forge lifesaving links. If you’re considering donation options, why not make a donation to them?


Many thanks to AKC and Working Dog Magazine for the images used in the header composite.

A German Shepherd sits alertly in front of a glowing Christmas Tree.

Seasonal K9 moments

The Artdog Images of Interest

It’s the end of the week, and for many of us it’s the start of a holiday break. I thought you might enjoy some seasonal K9 moments on a Friday-before-the-big-events! 

Home for the holidays

One inevitable problem every year is the struggle to travel. We Americans live in a far-flung nation, so we’re always going to grapple with travel woes. But it’s far from only an American problem. 

Crowding, bad weather, and security bottlenecks create chaos wherever we are (or are trying to go). How to cope? Working K9s will have many “seasonal moments.” They’ll be busy patrolling, screening packages at airports, and doing all they can to keep us safe.

This meme shows an alert German Shepherd sitting on an airline passenger's lap, surveying the other passengers as if they're suspects. The meme says, "Here's an idea: put a drug sniffing, bomb detecting, terrorist eating, bad ass German Shepherd on every plane. Problem solved."

But “home for the holidays” doesn’t only apply to humans. Learn more about American Humane’s Service Dogs for Veterans initiative. If you’re looking for a place to make a holiday or end-of-year donation and you believe every retired service dog deserves a good home, consider this program.

Encounters with Santa

Would the holidays have as much sparkle without the chance to give and receive? Certainly not. And there’s all sorts of potential for seasonal K9 moments with Santa, in the run-up to Christmas.

This meme shows an alert German shepherd in front of a glowing Christmas tree. The wording says, "When this 'Santa Claus' comes, I'll be waiting."
In this photo a person in a Santa Claus outfit leans away from a barking German Shepherd. The meme says, "You are not leaving until I get my Tennis Ball."

Holiday gift-giving

Silly memes aside, I’d also like to highlight some more serious thoughts about seasonal K9 moments. Specifically, some very special, life-saving holiday presents for working police K9s

Vested for Christmas - San Antonio K9 Rick, shown with human partner Acosta, received a protective vest from Vested Interest in K9s Inc.
Vested in time for Christmas” – San Antonio K9 Rick (shown here with his human partner, Officer Robert Acosta of the VIA Transit Metro Police Department) received a bulletproof, stab-proof vest in mid-December 2018, from Vested Interest in K9s Inc. These vests are expensive, but through donations the organization provides them to working police dogs at no charge to the department.
Clinton Iowa K9 Roman (handler unidentified) also received a protective vest from Vested Interest in K9s Inc.
Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. was at it again this year, with (among other gifts) a bulletproof, stab-proof vest for K9 Roman (with unidentified sidekick) of the Clinton, Iowa Police Department, paid for entirely through donations.

hope your holiday traditions include charitable giving. If they do, consider a gift (perhaps on Boxing Day, especially if you missed Giving Tuesday) to one of the K9 good causes I featured in this post:


The “Here’s an Idea” image is courtesy of Imagur’s Service Dog Memes. Many thanks to the German Shepherd Dog Community (the GSDC) on Facebook via Sheryl Pessell’s Pinterest Board, for the “I’ll be Waiting” meme (she has other good ones on there, too!). And double thanks to CHEEZburger, via I Can Has CHEEZburger’s “17 of the Best Animal Christmas Memes” page, for both the “You Are Not Leaving” (via I Love my German Shepherd Dog and Add Text) and the “Bark at Santa” (via Bella German Shepherds) images.

Finally, thanks to My San Antonio, for the “Vested in Time for Christmas” photo of K9 Rick and Officer Acosta (with accompanying story). Thanks also to KWQC of Clinton IA for the photo and story about K9 Roman (unfortunately, his uniformed sidekick wasn’t identified). And thanks very much to Vested Interest in K9s Inc. for their work!

Three dogs hug their humans.

Could it be love?

Does your dog love you? Or are you just projecting? Scientists try very hard to avoid anthropomorphizing their animal study subjects. Emotions are difficult to measure. But now we’re finally getting closer to answering the question, “could it be love?”

This is the third and final (for now) post in a series about dog cognition. In case you missed them, click: “Dogs: verbal virtuosos?” and “How much does your dog understand?” I’ve also previously written about working dogs on this blog–a post that touched on dog cognition, but didn’t go into as much depth.

This series started when I wrote a guest post on dog cognition for Booker T’s Farm,  a blog devoted to books and dogs (a great combo!) Their format, however, didn’t include the hyperlinks to sources that I’d suggested. (Note: Booker T’s Farm also later posted a very nice review of What’s Bred in the Bone).

Because science doesn’t stand still, there’s also some updated information to add. That (and the chance to share links to sources) is why I decided to expand on my August post with this series.


Three anthropomorphic cartoon dogs: Huckleberry Hound, Snoopy, and Scooby-Doo.
Huckleberry HoundSnoopy, and Scooby-Doo each created a humorous satire on certain human characteristics, but anthropomorphism gets in the way of scientists studying real dogs. (Images via Wikipedia)

When humans attribute human characteristics or emotions to non-human entities (weather conditions, animals, plants, gods or other things), they are anthropomorphizing. It’s an impulse as old as human “behavioral modernity.” In fact, one of our oldest artworks is anthropomorphic.

The so-called “Lion-Man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel,” also called Löwenmensch figurine, is an ivory sculpture about a foot tall, that was found in Hohlenstein-Stadel cave in Germany. It’s the oldest example of what everyone agrees is figurative art,  carbon-dated between 40,000 and 35,000 years old. You might recall dogs have probably been hanging out with humans somewhere in the neighborhood of 32,000 years.

So, yeah. We have an apparently-innate tendency to anthopomorphize all kinds of things (just for fun, run an image search with the keywords “faces on inanimate objects”). And while Huckleberry HoundSnoopyScooby-Doo, and dozens of other anthropomorphic dogs might be fun ways to poke humor at certain types of human characteristics, but they do nothing to help scientists understand real dogs.

The right chemistry

Three dogs give their humans some very convincing hugs.
A Golden Retriever who passes out hugs in New York City, a demonstrative rescued pit bull, and a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy who leans on his human and pulls him closer (Photos: varied sources/First for Women).

The human tendency to anthropomorphize may be hard to control for, but blood chemistry is entirely another matter, when we ask, “could it be love?”

Several studies have shown that oxytocin levels (the so-called “love hormone”) rise in both dogs and humans during interactions. When the human smiles, they look at each other, and when they snuggle, or when dogs are caressed, both release more oxytocin. Some researchers believe this mutual reaction is key to dog domestication.

In humans and other animals oxytocin is “correlated with the preferences of individuals to associate with members of their own group.” Thus, it’s not surprising that it’s been found to be important in bonding between mates and mothers and their infants, as well as humans and companion animals.

Could it be love? Check the MRIs

Dogs trained to hold still for an MRI are showing us more and more about how many similarities there are between their brains and ours.
At left, parallel brain structures in human and dog brains activated in response to stimuli (in this case words, but in other studies it’s been smells) at Hungary’s Eötvös Loránd University. (image: Andics et al./Current Biology) Center: Border Collies and Golden Retrievers pose with the MRI in the Hungarian lab. (Photo: Borbala Ferenczy) At right, fMRI scans from Emory University show brain activity associated with decision-making. Similar studies using fMRI have demonstrated emotional reactions that parallel those of humans. (Photo: Berns et al./SSRN).

Oxytocin isn’t the only scientific proof that it could, indeed, be loveStudies of dogs in MRI scanners show the brain structure (caudate nucleus) associated with anticipation and positive feelings lights up in dogs when they smell the odor of a familiar person.

Other MRI-scan brain studies reconfirm the dogs’ verbal recognition skills, and offer the beginnings of understanding how dogs make decisions.

Other indications

And then there’s body language. How can you mistake the message of the facial expressions,  the wriggling body, the wagging tail? How can you mistake the hugs? 

Could it be love? Watch this compilation of dogs greeting their returning soldiers home from deployment, then decide. What do you think?

Dog owners know: dogs “get” us, in a way few other animals do. After 32,000 years, even the scientists are beginning to agree.

IMAGE CREDITS: The cover art for What’s Bred in the Bone is © 2019 by Jody A. Lee. Many thanks to Wikipedia for this images of Huckleberry HoundSnoopyand Scooby-Doo. Thanks and hugs to First For Women and their adorable photo feature, “12 Adorable Pics of Dogs Hugging their Humans for Valentine’s Day,” the source of the “Dog Hugs” composite. For the “Dog Brain Scans” composite, I wish to thank Wired MagazineAttila Andics and Current Biology, photographer Borbala Ferenczy, and to Wired MagazineGregory Berns, and SSRN. Finally, many thanks to YouTube and FunnyPlox, for the video of dogs greeting their homecoming soldiers.

this graphic shows where dogs look on dog or human faces to get clues about the other individual's emotions.

Dog cognition: how much does your dog understand?

The cover of "What's Bred in the Bone" is © 2019 by Jody A. Lee. It shows XK9 Rex, the sapient canine protagonist, front and center.
What’s Bred in the Bone: now available.

Back in August, I wrote a guest post on dog cognition for Booker T’s Farm. That blog also later posted a very nice review of What’s Bred in the Bone. Booker T’s style, however, didn’t include the hyperlinks to my sources that I’d suggested.

Because science doesn’t stand still, there’s also some updated information to add. I’ve previously written about working dogs on this blog. So I’ve decided to expand on my August post.

How much do dogs really understand?

Have you ever wondered how much your dog knows? Does she really understand your facial expressions and gestures? Is his behavior mostly instinct and the impulse of the moment, or is it rooted in more complex thought processes?

Recent studies suggest the answers to all of these questions are “more than you might think.” Just how much your dog understands is still being studied, but it’s already clear we have more in common with our canine companions than we might imagine.

The skeleton of a puppy shares a Stone Age grave with the skeletons of a man and a woman, buried like a member of the family.
This puppy, buried in a Stone Age grave along with a man and a woman in Oberkassel, Germany (today in a suburb of Bonn) shows signs that it died of distemper, and would likely have been cared for over a period of many weeks. Sick though it was, its people apparently loved it. (screen capture from a video by University of Alberta, via National Geographic).

An ancient bond

Humans have a longer history of evolving side by side with dogs than with any other domesticated animal species. Archaeologists have found dog remains with a human burial as long ago as 14,000 years ago. But geneticists have found mutations that would suggest a more domesticated diet that date back some 32,000 years.

There’s even a sandstone cliff in Saudi Arabia that offers pictorial documentation of a man hunting with dogs (on leashes?) that’s more than 8,000 years old. This video is short, but informative:

So dogs and humans have had a pretty long time to get used to each other. How much have we “rubbed off on each other”? Some researchers say quite a lot! Neither humans nor dogs would be what we are today, without each other

That’s true physically, but studies in dog cognition also tell us it’s true in terms of dogs’ brains. This first became clear when dogs showed they could easily understand gestures such as a human pointing to an object, although chimpanzees could not. They are more tuned in to what humans are doing.

Watch the eyes (and the eyebrows!)

Researchers also have shown that dogs pay attention to where we are looking , and recognize the difference between happy and angry human expressions

According to a study from the University of Helsinki, "the social gazing behavior of domestic dogs resembles that of humans: dogs view facial expressions systematically, preferring eyes. In addition, the facial expression alters their viewing behavior, especially in the face of threat."
According to a study from the University of Helsinki, “the social gazing behavior of domestic dogs resembles that of humans: dogs view facial expressions systematically, preferring eyes. In addition, the facial expression alters their viewing behavior, especially in the face of threat.” (Photo: S.Somppi Ja 123RF.DOI: 10.1371/Journal.Pone.0143047)

Moreover, recent studies have established that dogs have more facial muscles than wolves. The muscles that move their eyebrows and give them such expressive faces developed after they’d become a separate species. In other words, they have puppy-dog eyes, and they are not afraid to use them

Believe it or not, this reflects sophisticated dog cognition. Along with the “pointing tests,” it shows that that dogs have a “theory of mind. That’s the ability to intuit how others see the world and even, to some extent, know what they’re thinking,” according to studies done by Duke University researchers.

Dogs may not be as smart as humans (yet), but their cognitive capabilities run deeper than many people imagine. We’ll look at more aspects of this next week, in my mid-week post. 

Till then, I’d be fascinated to learn your thoughts on this post, and read any stories about super-smart dogs you have known, if you’d care to share them in the comments section.

IMAGE CREDITS: The cover artwork for What’s Bred in the Bone is © 2019 by Jody A. Lee. The photo of a puppy buried in a Stone Age grave is a screen capture from a video by University of Alberta, posted by National Geographic. The video about the ancient Saudi Arabian petroglyphs of hunters with dogs (on leashes?) is courtesy of YouTube and Science Magazine.  The illustration that describes where dogs typically look at faces depicting emotion is from the University of Helsinki, by S.Somppi Ja 123RF.DOI: 10.1371/Journal.Pone.0143047. Many thanks to all!

All the artwork at FenCon's art show is being prepared in this photo.

Artwork at FenCon

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

displayed my artwork at FenCon XVI. You might remember I mentioned that in my mid-week post.

I spent a large chunk of time Thursday on the FenCon XVI Art Show. That was “setup day,” when the tables and display panels went up, and then the first of the art (the mail-ins and the work of artists able to arrive today) did, too. 

The artwork at FenCon is coming together at last in this photo of progress in setting up the art show as of about 5:00 Thursday evening.
Here’s how much of the artwork at FenCon XVI had been set up in the Art Show by about 5 p.m. Thursday. I’m not sure whether you can tell by comparing with my photo from last year, but t’s a much larger space than they had for last year’s Art Show.

As much as possible, all the rest of the art went up Friday, preferably before the Art Show opened to the public on Friday at 2:00 p.m.

Artist Guest of Honor Peri Charlifu

Peri Charlifu is one of the most talented and generous human beings I know–and I don’t think I’d get any naysayers if I asked others who know him if that was a fair characterization. He’s this year’s Artist Guest of Honor at FenCon XVI, so of course Ty and I found him working as hard as any member of the Art Show staff. His artwork at FenCon this year is a glorious bounty, and he gave me permission to photograph his artwork and post it online.

Rhonda Eudaly helps Peri Charlifu set up his artwork at FenCon.
Thursday Art Show setup with Rhonda Eudaly (L) helping Peri Charlifu (R) set up his display in the FenCon XVI Art Show.

I’ve taken full and gleeful advantage of his permission to photograph and post about his artwork at FenCon. He knows I love to tell my readers about cool new artwork that I encounter. 

Furthermore, he dares me or anyone else to take his ideas and execute them as well as he does. It’s a dare I would never take. I’ll happily promote him and his work till the world looks level, but the only way to get a real Peri Charlifu piece is to buy it from HIM.

Here's another look at more of Peri's commitment to bringing artwork to FenCon.
Peri Charlifu brought a dizzying array of artwork to FenCon XVI. They include awesome ceramics, sets, and kits, as well as 2D work.

If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to wander through the in-depth gallery of his work I posted on my Artdog Studio Facebook Page, as well as the Tale of Peri Potter and the Sorcerer’s Bowl, which involves a fun story about Peri, the author Rhonda Eudaly, and the special alchemy of artists inspiring each other.

Some of the artwork at FenCon has more than its share of unusual visual, "Petunia's Bowl of Prophecy" is definitely one of them!
This deceptively simple piece of art, Petunia’s Bowl of Prophecy, 2019, by Peri Charlifu, is partially from the mind of Rhonda Eudaly, the author whose manuscript is hooked under the edge of the pot. Read the story of how he inspired her, then she inspired him on my Artdog Studio Facebook Page.

My own artwork and that of Lucy A. Synk

Since DemiCon, I’ve been acting as an art agent for my friend Lucy A, Synk–or at least, my son Tyrell and I have been. I contact the show and manage the paperwork, but usually it’s Ty who puts up the show. And it’s also usually he who takes it down afterward. So of course we brought her artwork to FenCon.

All of these pieces of artwork are ©2019 by Lucy A. Synk. Each is a one-of-a-kind original. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt, 2019).
All of these artworks also are ©2019 by Lucy A. Synk. Each is a one-of-a-kind original. 
(Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt, 2019).
I also had artwork at FenCon. Thank goodness, my panel wasn’t quite as crowded as the one at SpikeCon, but almost.

IMAGE CREDITS: Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me, Jan S. Gephardt, and they may be re-posted or reblogged freely, as long as you attribute me as the photographer and include a link back to this post. Many thanks! 

If you wish to reblog or repost images of Peri Charlifu‘s workartwork, please attribute him as the artist, and provide a link back to his website. I’d also appreciate it if you’ll identify me as the source, with a link back to this post, please.

If you wish to reblog or repost Lucy A. Synk’s artwork, please attribute her as the artist and Tyrell Gephardt as the photographer, and link back either to Lucy’s page or to this post. Many thanks!

Honoring K9 veterans

Today is National K9 Veterans Day in the United States. It’s an annual observance on March 13, the anniversary of the date in 1942, when the Army started training for its War Dog Program.

Go to Military Working Dog Adoptions for more information on giving one of these retired veterans a forever home.
This is the header for the National K9 Veterans Day Facebook Page, by graphic designer Chris Crawford.

Chris Crawford, the designer of the National K9 Veterans Day Facebook group’s composite illustration above, added these notes about her illustration:

“The dogs depicted are the Belgian MalinoisDoberman, mixed breed, Labrador, and Husky and, of course, the German Shepherd in silhouette at the bottom. 

The breeds are commonly used working dogs. German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are the most common working breeds now and in the past. The Doberman was used extensively In WW2, particularly in the Marine Corps, and the Husky and other northern breeds were used to carry equipment and pull sleds in WW2 and during the Cold War. 

The mixed breed dog in the center is Stubby, of WWI fame, but he’s representing all the mixed breeds and unusual breeds used by the armed forces and civilian agencies.”

I thought I should finish off this post with my all-time favorite tribute to Military Working Dogs and their handlers, by Josh Tannehill. You’ve seen it on this blog before, but it bears re-posting!

Image created by Josh Tannehill.

These magnificent animals have no choice in whether they will defend our country and our troops–but they give the full measure of their devotion and provide an important force-multiplying factor. We owe it to them to honor them, and make sure they are well cared for throughout their lives.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Tails of a Foster Mom for the “Honor our Veterans” adoption poster-image, to the National K9 Veterans Day Facebook Page and graphic designer Chris Crawford, for the inspirational composite image with the silhouette, and I am deeply appreciative to Josh Tannehill for the “I am the Sheepdog” image.

Remember K9 Veterans!

IMAGE: Many thanks to Kristen Levine Pet Living for this image. And blessings upon every MWD, working or retired. Good dogs, all!

So, I wrote this book . . . the saga continues.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog periodically may have stumbled onto a mention or three about the science fiction novel I’ve been working on.

To be fair, it’s a science fiction universe I’ve been creating, the physical setting and milieu for a whole series of novels. Any blog posts I’ve written about future trends, such as last year’s series on automation, the DIY Space Station seriesfirst responders, and/or police K-9sMWDs, or service animals, all have been directly inspired by research aimed at making my fictional world seem more real.

The book’s still not published, so, no: this is not a sales pitch. It’s more like an update. After the 2016 post that marked the end of an early draft, it went through a series of editorial reviews by professionals I trust, as well as a lot of beta-readers’ reviews (note: beta-readers are kind of like beta testers, only for books).

And it underwent lots and lots (and lots and lots) of revisions. As far as the comments from my various critique resources have been going, it apparently continues to improve. I recently sent it off for what I hope is a final round of critiques. Considering the sequel’s now almost finished, I’m hopeful I can offer more substantive updates here soon.

IMAGES: Many thanks to the ever-witty Tom Gauld, via Pinterest, for the “Jealous of my Jetpack” picture, to Roxanne Smolen’s Instagram Page for the illustrated Phyllis Whitney quote, and to Kathy R. Jeffords for the “2nd Draft Won’t Kill You” design and thought.

Never too late to thank K9 veterans!

Well, darn it–I missed it this year. K9 Veterans Day was Monday, on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the US Army K9 Corps. A couple days off or not, however, it seems reasonable to honor the bravery and sacrifices of the magnificent animals who help keep our nation, and its human defenders, safe.

Dogs have been going to war with their humans for millennia, of course. Sergeant Stubby, of World War I fame, was very far from the first, although his story is pretty cool.

So is the story of Rin Tin Tin, arguably the most famous war dog of World War I, thanks to his subsequent acting career.

Rin Tin Tin was a German Shepherd Dog–still one of the most popular breeds for Military Working Dogs.

Dogs for Defense was an American Kennel Club-associated World War II program that slightly predated the Army K9 Corps, and helped supply its need for dogs. They accepted a wider variety of breeds than we commonly see today–including Alaskan Malamutes and Collies.

Today, most Military Working Dogs and law enforcement canines are German Shepherd Dogs, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois, chosen for their intelligence, aggressive natures, versatility, and athleticism.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s interesting that all three breeds were originally developed to herd and protect sheep.

Meet Cairo, the Belgian Malinois who helped Seal Team Six kill Osama bin Laden

The famous Seal Team Six dog Cairo, who helped in the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, was a Belgian Malinois. These dogs, which are slightly smaller and lighter-weight than, say, a German Shepherd, are often favored by Special Forces.

Liaka, shown here on the job in Baghdad, is a Dutch Shepherd.

What’s a Dutch shepherd? They almost didn’t make it through World War II, but now they’re one of the three top MWD and law enforcement breeds.

Like most MWDs who are retrievers, Cobo the chocolate lab is a tactical explosives detector.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention the many retriever breeds (especially Labrador Retrievers, as well as Golden Retrievers and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers), which are especially prized for explosives detection. Occasionally other breeds also show up, from Springer Spaniels to Pit Bulls. The onetime favorite breed of the USMC, the Doberman Pinscher, is far less often found on the front lines today.

Whatever their breed, however, we owe them a debt of gratitude! We can make our thanks more tangible by supporting organizations such as Save A Vet, which make sure that once their military service is finished, these magnificent dogs can enjoy their retirement in a good home.

IMAGES: Many thanks to QuotesGram for the “Veterans” image. I am indebted to Wikipedia for the photo of Sergeant Stubby and the poster featuring Rin Tin Tin. I am deeply appreciative to Josh Tannehill for the “I am the Sheepdog” image.

Many thanks to the Fedhealth blog for the photo of Cairo. Many thanks to Gizmodo’s cool photo essay on Military Working Dogs for the photos of Liaka, the Dutch Shepherd and Cobo the chocolate Labrador. 

And finally, many thanks to Rebloggy’s “Top Tumblr Posts” for the photo of the German Shepherd MWD with an awesome superpower.

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