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
The K9 Veterans Memorial’s centerpiece is the sculpture Unbreakable Bond. Wisconsin 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.
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 day dedicated to Military Working Dogs
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.
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.
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.