November 11th is the date we formally honor our brave military members who take an oath to protect and serve the United States. In March, however, we pay tribute to their furry-pawed, wet-nosed companions who fearlessly operate alongside American troops in combat. This Sunday, March 13, is National K9 Veterans Day, a celebration of the thousands of dogs on the front lines of military battlefields across the globe, as they serve valiantly in conjunction with their human counterparts.
Military working dogs have been an integral part of service in the United States since the nation’s founding. During World War I, while American Humane was acting on its “First to Serve” mission by saving wounded war horses across Europe, military working dogs were also being utilized by U.S. troops as both morale boosters and mustard gas detectors—improving spirits and protecting lives in the process. These courageous canines’ services were codified into the overarching U.S. Armed Forces program on March 13, 1942, with the official creation of the “K9 Corps.” Now, with the evolvement of wartime techniques in the 21st century, these dogs serve an invaluable purpose by sniffing out improvised explosive devices in combat missions across the world, using their 220 million olfactory receptors to save countless lives by improving the U.S. military’s IED detection rate to 80%.
There are currently more than 1,600 dogs deployed on active duty today, and their service to our country can’t be overlooked just because these veterans like to play fetch more than your average Navy Seal. As the country’s first-ever humane organization, American Humane is proud to serve these heroic dogs who so selflessly serve us.
Thanks to the generous philanthropy of veterans advocate and American Humane board member Lois Pope, we opened the Lois Pope LIFE Center for Military Affairs, an invaluable resource for those service members on both ends of the leash. The center helps reunite retiring military working dogs with their former handlers, cementing an unbreakable bond born in battle by providing these veterans with the most important gift they could ever get—each other. Through our Pups4Patriots program, we also provide veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury with life-saving service dogs that allow them to live more fully engaged and enriched lives.
American Humane is dedicated to recognizing these canine contributions through celebrations like the Lois Pope LIFE K-9 Medal of Courage and the Hero Dog Awards, which honor the sacrifice these incredibly stalwart pooches make. One such lucky Labrador, Staff Sargent Summer, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2013. Her tireless work nosing out weapons caches, troop routes, and IEDs earned this smiley 10-year-old the 2021 Military Hero Dog Award.
Do you know a military working dog who deserves recognition for their gallant contributions to our country? Nominate your deserving canine for our 2022 Hero Dog Awards by visiting https://www.americanhumane.org.
While March 13 is the conventional day to credit these dogs, it’s never a wrong time to acknowledge our furry friends who do so much to help our military members, from saving veteran lives in the battlefield to helping them live those lives to the fullest when they return home. Throw them a bone and join us in honoring these plucky pups who mean so much to our veterans when they’re deployed and, sometimes even more importantly, when they return home again.