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Leerburg Dogs of War

Dogs of War

Dogs of War

War Dogs

War Dogs
Graciously lent by Sandy Marrone

War Dogs
Hartsdale Canine Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York
Photo by Michael Lemish

War Dogs
"Dedicated to the Memory of the War Dog"

A bronze and granite boulder memorial was originally constructed in 1923 to honor WWI Red Cross Search and Rescue

Dogs used to locate wounded soldiers. The memorial has since been expanded to include all dogs of all wars.

War Dogs
The C-B-I Dog Handlers and Scout Dogs of the Army's Marauder Infantry

From the WWII China-Burma-India theater of Operations veterans' scrapbook

Photo supplied by - WWII veteran Richard Zika

War Dogs
War Dogs Video

This is a great 70 minute video on War Dogs, it titled "WAR DOGS- AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN HEROES." The untold story of dogs in combat, narrated by Martin Sheen. This is a great video. I will guarantee that this tape will bring a tear to your eye on more than one occasion. It was produced with the help of Nature's Recipe Pet Foods. You can purchase it for $10.00 by calling toll free 877-927-3647. The profits from this video are donated to the War Dog Memorial Fund.

Visit the War Dogs Website

A Soldier's Best Friend

By Phil McCombs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 25, 2000; Page C01

Irac is petted by handler Sgt. Brice Cavanaugh.

In the invasion of Guam in 1944, Marine Capt. William W. Putney led a patrol to root out some entrenched Japanese.

"I took a squad of men and two BARs [Browning Automatic Rifles] and a flamethrower--and three dogs," the retiree recalls by phone from California. "We got to the area, and I gave the signal to be extremely careful.

"A shot rang out from the distance, and the dog right in front of me--name of Cappy, a Doberman--I saw him fly into the air. I could see the hole in his chest, he was dead.

"If it hadn't been for Cappy right in front of me, I would have been the target."

The dog's handler, a Marine named Terrell, "picked the body up and held it in his arms with blood all over his face--he was crying, just rocking back and forth.

"He'd lost his buddy."

Today, Cappy is buried on Guam with 28 other dogs who gave their lives for the liberation of the island and who were credited with saving hundreds of American soldiers. A life-size bronze sculpture of a Doberman, provided by veterans, guards the cemetery. In a sense, it's a far-reaching symbol. From the sands of Iwo Jima to the frozen wastes of Korea, from the steaming jungles of Vietnam's Annamite Cordillera to the deserts of the Persian Gulf, thousands of valiant American dogs of war have covered themselves with glory.

After the war, Putney became chief veterinarian of the Marine Corps and successfully "detrained" 550 war dogs, returning them to civilian homes to live out their days. Then, in 1949, he watched in dismay as military dogs were reclassified as "equipment."

No longer could they be adopted; instead, at the end of their usefulness to their country, they would be euthanized. This was U.S. policy for 50 years.

Putney was outraged. "Thousands of these dogs have needlessly been destroyed," he says. "To employ an animal for our own use and then, when they can no longer serve us...cast them on a garbage heap is the worst kind of animal abuse."

Earlier this month, however, Putney and other dog lovers applauded as President Clinton signed a bill allowing military dogs to be adopted at the end of their "useful working" lives by former handlers and others qualified to care for them safely and humanely.

"A victory for common sense," declared Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.), who ramrodded the dog bill through a unanimous Congress. "These military dogs deserve a dignified retirement in loving homes in return for their unique and irreplaceable service to our country."

A farmer and dog owner, the conservative congressman had learned about the Defense Department's policy in a Stars and Stripes Digital article in September. The article mentioned a U.S. Marine Corps dog named Robby, sick and nearing the end of a distinguished career.

Robby, Bartlett feared, was facing euthanasia.

The Few, the Proud . . .

"Get him!"

On command, Tanja leaps forward, a tan-and-black blur of pure canine muscle and fang streaking toward the suspect.

The "suspect" in this demonstration at the Quantico Marine Corps Base--where Robby lived until recently--is running like crazy. Suddenly Tanja is on him, teeth clamped onto his right arm, wrestling him to submission.

"Out!" commands Marine Sgt. Terrell Lambert. The dog retreats instantly to his handler's side.

"Sir, at this time I am going to move forward and search you," the handler shouts at the suspect. "Do not move or my dog will bite you again!"

The suspect freezes, hands up. Lambert moves forward and carefully begins searching him.

The dog, a German shepherd, watches intently from a distance.

Suddenly, the suspect makes a move on Lambert. Tanja, without any verbal signal, charges on her own accord and again subdues the suspect in a maelstrom of snarling and biting.

A few moments later, the demo over, Lambert and Tanja are happily petting and nuzzling.

Like any carefree lad with his pup.

The kennels at Quantico, home to half a dozen award-winning teams of dogs and handlers, are where Bartlett, early one autumn morning, came to visit Robby and his handler, 26-year-old Lance Cpl. Shawnn Manthey.

It was upsetting for everyone.

Robby, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, tried to go through his paces but failed. Beset by bad hips, arthritis in his front elbows and a painful growth on his spine, he couldn't catch the suspect when his handler ordered him to attack.

When he finally did get in a bite, his gums bled.

Finally, the dog was in so much pain the demonstration had to be halted. The congressman, full of admiration for both dog and handler, returned to Capitol Hill with fresh ammunition for his effort to rescind the 1949 law.

Manthey, he knew, wanted to adopt the dog but could not do so unless Bartlett succeeded with the new legislation. The key was for the military to be able to transfer liability to new owners when it adopted dogs out--and Bartlett wrote this into the law.

"The fear that these dogs might pose a danger or a legal liability after adoption is understandable, but unwarranted," he said.

Putney's 550 post-WWII dogs had been returned to civilian life with "not a single instance of those adopted dogs biting anyone," he noted, and police dogs routinely live at home with their handlers and families.

While Bartlett lobbied for the new law, a "Help Save Robby Campaign" appeared on the Web, complete with a picture of the dog and handler Manthey and a poem, "For Robby":

Where once a life was his to save

It is now our turn to try

To give him back some happiness

But you will not let us--Why?

By the time the legislation passed and the president signed it into law Nov. 6, however, Manthey's wife was pregnant and the young handler realized he couldn't afford the high-dollar medication the dog needed.

"Me and Robby were partners so long," he says, "I don't want him getting jealous of the baby or my other dogs."

In late October, Robby was shipped back to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, where the nation's military dogs are trained at the 341st Training Squadron and where, when their lives in the field are over, they return to help train new handlers.

And to die.

Lassie in Combat

American war dogs like Robby and Tanja--called military working dogs, or MWDs, in peacetime--are the stuff of legend. The 10,425 canines who served in WWII saved countless GIs. They included heroes like Chips, who stood guard at the Roosevelt-Churchill conference at Casablanca and later, in combat in Sicily, broke away from his handler to attack a pillbox and capture an enemy machine-gun crew.

In 1990 Disney produced a TV movie called "Chips the War Dog." In 1999, the Discovery Channel's "War Dogs: America's Forgotten Heroes" documented the exploits of the 4,000 dogs who served in Vietnam--leading jungle patrols, spotting ambushes, pulling their handlers to safety. The documentary lamented the fate of hundreds of dogs left behind at the end of the war.

"Without Toro," says Vietnam dog handler Carl Dobbins in the documentary, "there's no way I'd have made it back to the United States. I wouldn't have made it probably three months without Toro."

Today, America's roughly 1,800 military dogs and their handlers are engaged mostly in military police work--apprehending suspects, searching buildings, securing perimeters. The Quantico dogs and their handlers are also loaned out to the Secret Service, State Department and other federal agencies for bomb and narcotics detection work.

When President Clinton visited India last spring, Lambert and Tanja went along, searching vehicles and rooms the president would use to make sure they were bomb free.

"The dog stayed in the hotel room with me," the handler recalls. "We were on call. We'd play around, throw the ball around. When I'd go for a jog, she'd accompany me. She was my partner. It's a very close bond--like having a very, very close friend you know you can count on."

Dogs are currently deployed with U.S. peacekeeping forces in Kosovo--the closest thing we have to a war zone right now--where they work in security, VIP protection, crowd control and bomb detection.

Should America go to war, Lambert and other handlers say, their dogs can be quickly trained to lead patrols, spot tripwires, sniff out the enemy at distances of up to 1,000 yards, serve as couriers and perform other assignments under combat conditions.

At long last, such steadfast and often heroic service is being recognized, as memorials to America's war dogs spring up across the country. Streamwood, Ill., decided to add one to the town's War Memorial after citizen Jennifer Pfannkuche got the idea from reading a children's book on war dogs.

"Dogs have been serving our country in combat for 200 years since the American Revolution, and they've never been acknowledged," said another citizen, Carolyn Pentecost, who mailed 1,000 letters seeking financial support for the Streamwood memorial.

At a dedication of another memorial, at March Air Force Base in Riverside, Calif., earlier this year, Putney watched "200 dog handlers from Vietnam, and you could see the tears on their faces--some didn't even get a chance to tell their dog goodbye." Next spring, Simon & Schuster is planning to publish Putney's book, "Always Faithful: A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of World War II."

During that war, dogs were recruited just like soldiers. They came from among people's house pets, according to the Quartermaster Foundation's Web site, The American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense mobilized dog owners to donate quality animals to the armed services.

Thus, when it was time for the dogs to demobilize, most had homes to go to. This is not true of today's military dogs, who are kept in kennels from puppyhood and work with several handlers over their careers.

Today, it's not that simple.

Troubling Transitions

In the wake of the new law, calls are coming in to Lackland, from military dog handlers and others, wanting to adopt dogs. Spokesman Gary Emery says the 341st Training Squadron is studying how to implement the law "so that we're doing the right thing for the animals and the people that will adopt them."

Despite assurances from Bartlett and Putney, the military--including the very handlers who love the dogs--remains concerned about safety. "I don't think you can really deprogram these dogs," says Lambert. "The training might get toned down, but she'll always have it in the back of her mind."

"These dogs have a rough transition to their older years," says Sgt. Brice Cavanaugh, Quantico handler of an award-winning Belgian Malinois named Irac. "I'd rather see a dog put down than have the handler take him home and have him bite a small child out of fear and pain."

It's not yet clear how many dogs will be available for adoption. The squadron needs to keep about 150 on hand for training purposes. During the past three years, about 200 dogs a year have been euthanized.

"Our policy is that the only time we euthanize military working dogs is to ease the pain and suffering of an animal with a terminal disease that's untreatable," Emery says.

Army Col. Larry Carpenter, 48, the squadron's chief veterinarian who grew up on a farm in South Dakota, admits to loving animals and has two dogs and three cats at home. He says he has never euthanized a military dog "where the dog was not ready to die. They usually have serious medical problems.

"We try to make a decision on the quality of life of a dog, and his ability to work. We have 12- and 13-year-old dogs that still have the drive, the heart to work--and work is what they love."

In the end, Carpenter says, the death decisions are made the same way they are in a private veterinary practice. "You come to a decision where the dog doesn't have a quality of life that can sustain it, so you end up putting the dog to sleep as an act of kindness."

Each corpse is autopsied, for medical research, and then cremated. There's no graveyard at the squadron.

Dogs that can be adopted under the new law will be those not needed for training work and still healthy enough to enjoy life. These Carpenter will evaluate and then match with qualified applicants.

It will be, he's sure, tricky.

"If I look at a dog from a medical standpoint," he says, "I can say that he's likely to bite, but I can't say that a dog won't bite. Some dogs are very aggressive and may not be adoptable just because that's their personality."

This is worrisome, he says. In a civilian adoptive setting, "there is a significant danger that the dog could do what it's been trained to do, which is protect and attack.

"Given a situation where breeds are being banned for aggressive behavior, this is one of the main problems in adopting out these dogs. They don't have to be ordered to attack; they do it without command. Put yourself in the position of having children and living next door to a dog like that."

Rep. Bartlett isn't worried, however.

"These dogs are not a hazard," he says. Under his law, the military must provide a report on each euthanized dog.

"We can have hearings," he says, "and they'll have to get up there and explain why they killed that dog."

As for Robby, he is now in a "nice kennel" at Lackland, Emery says, adding he is receiving top-quality medical care and is being evaluated for use as a training dog.

Semper Fi

In another war dog book that came out last year, "K-9 Soldiers: Vietnam and After" (Hellgate Press, $13.95), author and Vietnam veteran Paul B. Morgan described the courageous exploits of his German shepherd, Suzie.

They walked point together through the jungle, made parachute jumps, saved downed chopper crews.

Morgan had acquired Suzie not from the Army but from a priest, Father Tu, in exchange for a pistol and silver rosary beads. "God protects dogs from the knowledge of death," Father Tu had observed, "so they will be brave and serve their fellow man.

"Because of the unconditional love, devotion, humility and honesty, all dogs are rewarded in the afterlife with the equivalent of Heaven."

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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