Guest Editorial: Please Handlers, Don’t Push to Adopt Viable War Dogs Too Early. Lives Are at Stake.

Former dog handler Logan Black is together again with his bomb dog, Diego (Photo by Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News)

Earlier this week my Facebook page celebrated the reunion of Iraq war veteran and former dog handler Logan Black and his old bomb-sniffing dog, Diego. Thanks to the DOD’s military working dog adoption program, former Army Sgt. Logan Black was able to adopt 8-year-old yellow Lab after the dog was dispo’d from the MWD program. It was a win-win for everyone. The look on Diego’s face says it all.

Reunited, and it feels so good! (Photo by Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News)

Black had wanted to get his old dog back badly enough that when he heard Diego was retiring, he tried to get the adoption expedited by reaching out to media and by writing to a high-ranking military official who handles this kind of request. It’s similar to what former Marine handler Megan Leavey did to speed her former canine partner through the adoption process once he was dispo’d.

These dogs were already dispo’d, so I’m told the requests shaved only two or three weeks off the adoption process. (Adoption of dispo’d dogs has gone relatively warp speed in the last year thanks to huge improvements in the MWD adoption process – including a much-needed change to computerization of all records.) But a few of the dogs currently being sought for adoption by handlers are still very much active duty. They are viable working dogs who have more deployment capabilities ahead. There’s some fear that to make good public relations – or at least to avoid bad PR -  the military will start retiring dogs who have a strong working future, putting those who need them at risk.

A former handler who is very much still in the thick of all this was communicating with me about his concerns yesterday. I asked him if he could write a short editorial. He did so under condition of anonymity, because in order to really state his opinion on this or just about anything officially, he’d have to go through loads of red tape.  It’s a side we rarely hear from, and as much of a softy as I can be about keeping dogs and handlers together, he makes a compelling case for why working dogs should keep protecting the troops. I’m interested in your thoughts after reading it.

Guest Editorial by Former MWD Handler

Here’s a story that I like to think about when someone wants to take a perfectly healthy working dog and make them a pet, instead of allowing them to be a working dog..a Marine went out on multiple missions in Afghanistan and on every mission there was some sort of explosives detector dog who would accompany them and conduct explosives clearing sweeps along the way when necessary. The one mission this Marine went on and there was no MWD present, his convoy was hit and he lost both of his legs. Could this still have happened? Possibly, but I would think that having an asset who can save someone’s son or daughter from a life changing injury or death outweighs bringing the dog home to be your pet.

I’ve been down that road, I left my dog behind and did not think I would ever see her again because it was my time to move on and she was young and healthy. We spent almost two solid years working together, day in and day out, we went to Iraq together, on Secret Service missions together and worked the road on our home base together. I would go in on my days off to play with her and get her out of the kennel…it might almost be fair to say if given the option of keeping my girlfriend or my dog, my dog probably would have won out every time.

Having to leave my dog behind was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. However, she was a helluva dog, we used her for demonstrations to show how good a dog could work. I put tons of work into building her up, but when it was time to leave her behind I sat with her in her kennel crying because I knew she wouldn’t understand where her dad went, but with both dogs and humans alike time heals all wounds and I knew she needed to work because that’s what she loved to do…saving someone’s life was more important than having her as a pet to me.

I know there is another side that people look at and say give the dog away and buy a new one, but when I watch the news and see how bad the economy is and how the government is trying to cut spending, why should they buy a new dog when they have one that works great. Thousands of dollars are spent to buy and train these dogs, why not put that money somewhere else so that these men and women can feel a little safer while serving their country. Its understandable to want your dog after going through all the things that come with deployments and dangers in the world, but at the end of the day these dogs should be out saving a life and not laying on a couch…at least not until they don’t want to work anymore.

 

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