A dog's life: Mine dogs train to save lives

A dog’s life: Mine Dogs Train to Save Lives

Mine dogs and explosive detector dogs (PEDD, SSD, TEDD, IDD) are trained differently. Mine dogs are specialists who train by detecting the components of a land mine.  When I was in Afghanistan we had 12 mine detector dog teams. I found this great story to share. The pictures are awesome and bring back vivid memories of Bagram Airbase.

By U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Allen, a mine- detection dog, runs down a muddy gravel road with his nose low to the ground.

“No, seek here!” commands U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Curd, a dog handler with the 49th Engineer Detachment (mine dogs), out of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Allen’s ears perk up as he runs to where his handler is pointing and begins to search for the “mine” that Curd placed on the side of the road.

He stops and alerts, a signal that Allen is trained to present if he finds something.

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan –U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Allen, a mine-detection dog, and U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Curd, a mine-detection dog handler, search for “mines” during a training session at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2013. A series of explosive materials were placed along the road to keep Allen’s skills sharp in order to better support counter-mine operations in Regional Command-East. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan –U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Allen, a mine-detection dog, and U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Curd, a mine-detection dog handler, search for “mines” during a training session at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2013. A series of explosive materials were placed along the road to keep Allen’s skills sharp in order to better support counter-mine operations in Regional Command-East. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Curd kneels down and inspects the find. The handlers use real explosive material that is commonly found in Afghanistan to train the mine dogs. Allen’s nose has scored a direct hit and Curd produces a black rubber ball as a reward. Allen mauls the ball excited that his master is happy with his performance.

The mine-detection dogs of the 49th Eng. Det. are trained to detect explosive substances, specifically those used in landmines.

“My dogs originally came to Afghanistan in 2004, and their original mission was to find the mines on [Bagram Airfield],” said U.S. Army Capt. Jeffrey Vlietstra, the officer-in-charge of the 49th Eng. Det. “Eventually the program evolved and they started working in Kandahar and participating in the improvised explosive device fight.”

The dogs go through a rigorous selection process designed by the Department of Defense at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

After selection, mine-detection dogs and their handlers begin their enlistment together from day one. After a 5 1/2 month training course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., the team reports to its first duty station.

A Soldier will typically be a dog-handler for a three-year enlistment, with the option to reenlist for another 3 years if desired, said U.S. Army Sgt. Garrett Grenier, also a mine-dog handler with the 49th Eng. Det.

 

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Drake, a mine-detection dog, seeks out “mines” during a training session at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2013. Drake is a member of the 49th Engineer Detachment (mine dogs) and is deployed to BAF to support expansion missions, patrols and route clearance in Regional Command-East. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Drake, a mine-detection dog, seeks out “mines” during a training session at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2013. Drake is a member of the 49th Engineer Detachment (mine dogs) and is deployed to BAF to support expansion missions, patrols and route clearance in Regional Command-East. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Grenier and his dog, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Drake, share a close bond.

“He’s my buddy, we take care of each other,” Grenier said. “He’s a good guy to hang out with when I’m bored on a mission.”

Allen and Drake are stationed at BAF but travel all around Regional Command-East to support the missions of the infantry and engineers.

“On a typical mission we primarily conduct route clearance,” said Grenier, who was originally a combat engineer before he reenlisted to be a dog-handler. “We dismount when needed and clear the route ahead of the convoy or patrol.”

Mine-detection dogs and their handlers are usually the first to go into a potentially dangerous area.

“Our dog teams are the tip of the spear,” Vlietstra added. “Our engineers operate ahead of the main force and our dog teams clear the routes to ensure their safety.”

To keep their skill sharp, handlers and canines train on a daily basis, depending upon weather and mission tempo. On this particular day Curd and Grenier had set up a training route along a muddy access road on the east side of BAF complete with explosive material to replicate what the dog would encounter on a typical mission.

A dog's life: Mine dogs train to save livesAllen and Drake train separately to avoid distracting each other.

The process of clearing a mine field is a long and arduous one. A simple mistake could send both dog and handler to the hospital or worse. Therefore the handler must ensure the dog stays close and walks a straight line through a danger area.

Grenier and Curd keep their dogs on leashes to facilitate this and control them with short sharp commands. When the dog finds the “mine” he alerts and if correct, is rewarded with his favorite toy and lots of attention.

“Working in itself is fun to him [Drake],” said Grenier. “It’s kind of like a game.”

Mine dogs are typically between the ages of one and two when they are selected and they serve six to seven years before they retire. This “enlistment” will usually include at least two deployments.

When not training or working, Drake and Allen live in accommodations that rival those of some Soldiers.

The dogs reside in concrete kennels with a separate room for sleeping. With the pull of a lever, a door opens into a run that allows the dogs to go outside.

U.S. Army Sgt. Holly Braun, a veterinary technician with the 49th Eng. Det., takes care of the mine-detection dogs when they get hurt or sick.

“The dogs are entitled to everything that your average Soldier gets on a deployment,” said Braun. “They get dental cleanings and physicals twice a year ranging from lab work to physical exams and vaccinations.”
After retirement, the dog-handler will have the option of adopting his dog and taking him home.

A dog's life: Mine dogs train to save lives

Grenier hopes he can take Drake home when his enlistment is done.

“My wife really likes him, and I hope I can adopt him so that he can stay at our home and hang out with us,” said Grenier.

The bond between the dogs and the people they work for is best described as very close.

“After spending a couple years with these dogs, they really become a part of your family,” Braun added

If anyone knows a mine detector dog handler I’d love to talk with them. I’d love to share a story or two about their exploits finding landmines in Afghanistan.

With the projected drawdown of the military I wonder what will happen to the mine dog detachments. My personal opinion- I won’t be surprised to see them on the cut list. We appear to be entering some lean years in the military.

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A Rakkasan Christmas

OBE

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Boase, an intelligence chief, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), delivers tennis balls dressed as Santa to the Military Police K-9 attachment on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Dec. 25, 2012. Boase dressed as Santa and delivered more than 200 care packages to the soldiers and civilians of FOB Salerno for Christmas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton, Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Lately I’ve found myself pulled in multiple directions and the one thing that has fallen to the wayside is my blogging.  My blog writing has become what we call in the Army world OBE or, overcome by events. I’ve felt guilty about it, made excuses, but I know I could have and should have spent some time invested in writing and expressing myself. But I have been quite busy lately.

So what I’ve been up to lately can be categorized into five categories:

1. Work: Yep, I have a day job that I’m passionate, committed, and which requires my full attention. My unit is going through an Inspector General (IG) Inspection right now. Preparing for the inspection requires ALOT of work. Unlike many, I like inspections because they are a forcing functionwhich results in the organization taking a hard look at ourselves.

I announced this past summer that the Army had selected me for Battalion Command in Germany, summer of 2014. Before then I must attend seven weeks of assorted classes to prepare for command. As I write this I’m nearing the end of a two week course called the U.S. Army School of Command Preparation at Ft Leavenworth, Kansas. I love the name of the school…..it seems so old school Army.

2. Family: Since I returned from Afghanistan in 2011 I haven’t done a good job of making my family my number one priority…….I’m working on that. My wife and little boy need me……..plus huge news I’ve yet to announce here…. My wife Megan is pregnant again. She is due mid-April. This week we are having an ultrasound to find out the gender! We talk a lot about balance at the School for Command Preparation; I need to start practicing it.

3. Preparing for an Overseas Move: Last time I moved to Germany (2001), I was responsible to get myself, and my possessions over there. Now I have a wife, will have two kids under the age of 2 1/2, two dogs, a car, and OUR possessions. If you are all interested in the complexities that go into an overseas move please let me know in the comment section……I will write an entire piece on that. I’ve put a lot of brain hours into this one though.

4. Revising Paws on the Ground: What you say, another round of revisions, I thought this novel was done? The book has been “completed” many times but is in a constant state of revision. My agent has received nothing but rejections from the publishing houses so far. So when an international best-selling author, after reading the novel, offered some suggestions for improvement, I sprang into action, and completed another round of revisions. This was PHD level stuff and took me almost a month to add 9.4K words to the novel. I’ll keep ya posted on what happens.

5. My Health: After being hit by a car while cycling in September, I endured seven hours of shoulder surgery. My doctor said that he’s completed thousands of surgeries and my shoulder was the SECOND worst he’s ever seen. I’m in constant pain still, rehab isn’t fun or easy, and finally a few weeks ago I was able to start exercising to lose some of that weight inactivity caused me gain. I do my physical therapy every day and go to a therapist 3x a week. I’m supposed to gain range of motion back this spring and strength by next winter.

These are the things that are dominating my world right now.

When I first researched how to blog there were folks that were adamant about consistency in blogging…..you must send out a post, weekly or whatever rhythm you established. Your readers will expect this from you.

Do you believe this is true?

I’ll tell ya, I subscribe to about five blogs and those ones that send out posts on a schedule are often times full of garbage. In fact, most often I delete them without reading. I’m committed to writing substance and not quantity. I shoot for every Tuesday but sometimes I become OBE.

Thank you all for following the site, my journey, and sharing in my life. You encouragement inspires me every day.

I’m going to spend the next few weeks working on continuing the dog team stories and developing some other ideas for this site. Happy holidays to you and your family…….. I’ll be back after the holidays. 

The command team of Company C, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), serve Christmas dinner to their soldiers at Combat Outpost Chamkani, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2012. Soldiers of Company C were treated to a day off and visits from their higher command during the Christmas holiday. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

The command team of Company C, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), serve Christmas dinner to their soldiers at Combat Outpost Chamkani, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2012. Soldiers of Company C were treated to a day off and visits from their higher command during the Christmas holiday. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

 

Please don’t forget about our 50K plus troops deployed in harms way defending your way of life this holiday season.

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Me and my boys

My Wars: What Will my Son Think?

As a kid I never really thought about the significance of Veterans Day. It was just a day off from school or work. I don’t remember the significance of the holiday really being emphasized like it is currently.

I suppose I was your typical American who didn’t know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

I wonder if we as a country still had a bad hangover from Vietnam when I was growing up?

In high school we took less than a week to cover Vietnam in history class. Though, we spent months studying the World Wars. I can remember specifically a high school teacher of mine who I really respected telling us that Vietnam wasn’t a “real” war.

Though he did quite proudly tout his father and uncles service in World War II and Korea.

As a curious teenager, I read everything I could get my hands on about the Vietnam War. Here is what I learned as a teenager- if it walks and quacks like a duck……then it’s a damn duck.

However, growing up military service never crossed my mind as a path for my future. To endure all the crap our troops go through just to get treated like garbage when you get home? No thanks.

The treatment of our Vietnam veterans was tragic. That period of our countries’ history will forever be tarnished by the treatment of our returning Vietnam veterans by a vocal minority.

As a country we evolved and grew.

The first time I witnessed a true fever pitch of patriotism was at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in the spring of 1991. It was homecoming for the soldiers of the 1058 Transportation Company, Massachusetts Army National Guard who were returning from Desert Storm. I’ll never forget when those yellow school busses rolled toward the frenzied crowd of family and friends. The thought sends chills down my spine to this day.

I scanned the open windows of the busses containing the soldiers wearing their six colored dessert pattern, chocolate – chip camouflage uniform, desperately searching for one Soldier. My father, Staff Sergeant Robert Hanrahan.

I‘d never been prouder to be an American.

I’d never been prouder of my father.

That was the day I decided I would be just like my father. I would follow in his footsteps and serve this country.

One year later I enlisted in the Massachusetts Army Nation Guard and, joined that very same unit. It was two weeks before my high school graduation. I served in that unit for four years while I attended college.

After college my father had to start saluting and calling me, Sir. I‘d joined the Reserve Officer Candidate School at UMASS- Amherst, was commissioned active duty and, have never looked back.

The Desert Storm Veterans were deservingly treated as returning heroes. We returned to the days of ticker tape parades on Broadway and celebrating our service members.

As a nation we have never looked back.

Today school teachers lead letter writing and care package drives for our deployed troops, civic organizations do the same, organizations have been established simply to support our troops and, the much beloved military discount (my personal favorite is my 10% discount at Lowes) are widespread throughout businesses.

As a veteran of two very unpopular wars I often wonder how my contributions on the macro level will be perceived in the history books. Are my two wars the next Vietnam in my child’s history books?

On the micro level I have no doubt- as a company commander trying to prop up the fledgling Iraqi Police in Northwest Baghdad to flooding Afghanistan with explosive dog teams, I can stand tall and look anyone in the eye.

But I can’t help wonder what will my son, Brady, will think of my wars? All my efforts and those of my troops, my brothers and sisters……. the troops I lost.

Will he understand the sacrifice and commitment?

Will he follow in my footsteps?

Do I want him subjected to the horrors of war?

Brady Thomas Hanrahan

Brady Thomas Hanrahan

I’m sure you started reading this post thinking I would make an emphatic plea about our military dogs receiving recognition as veterans.

Or maybe a post about how Veterans Affairs is shortsighted in not providing service dogs to our veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (I still think the D in PTSD should be eliminated)

As not to disappoint, here is a link to my post last year about the short sighted Department of Veterans Affair. Here is my heartfelt post on Military Dogs being service members. As far as I’m concerned they already are fellow service members and I don’t care what our bureaucrats in Washington say.

As a country there is no looking back on the top notch treatment received by our veterans.

Did we learn from the treatment of our Vietnam veterans?

Did we rally behind our flag after 9 – 11?

Is the constant threat of attack on American soil by a fanatic and determined enemy bonding us as a nation?

My opinion is yes, to all three.

As a veteran I want to thank all of you, for honoring and recognizing service member’s service to this great nation.

Thank you for making military service a noble path, a selfless path, a path our young ones can hold with reverence. This support only serves to make this country even stronger.

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”George Washington

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Dan and Military Working Dog Bony

Dan and Bony The Grey Wolf Go to War

Boom, Boom!

The RG-31 Nyala, a 4×4 multi-purpose, mine-protected armored personnel carrier (APC), shook and U.S Army Sergeant Daniel Sandoval instinctively reached for his military working dog.

They had just been hit!

Was everyone in the vehicle all right?

Was he all right?

How could this happen on his first mission?

Were he and Military Working Dog Bony going to end up killed in action on his first mission like Lenny and MWD Tiki? What the hell was going on?

Just three days before they had finally left Bagram airbase and headed to Camp Arena in the desolate Regional Command- West. This area was close to Iran and naturally influenced by that powerful Shiite Muslim country.

Where they were was quieter than some of the other places nearby, but there existed pockets of intense resistance to the new Afghan government, especially with the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) suspected to be operating there.

The troops were spread thin in the region and intense fighting erupted throughout. People were dying everyday as the struggle for control of this critical region recently intensified.

Now the allied forces needed dog teams to protect their troops.skinny Dan

Daniel had been led onto the C-130 Hercules airplane by his 90-pound Military Working Dog Bony.

Bony The Grey Wolf took one look around the cramped space and made a beeline up the left side of the aircraft, parking himself next to the only female on the airplane.

“Figures,” Daniel said to himself as he placed his backpack on the cargo netting seat network.

“Awwww, how cute. Can I pet him?” the female sergeant asked.

She really didn’t have much of choice since The Grey Wolf’s big grey head was in her face.

“Sure, he’s friendly.”

Friendly if you are a chic, thought Daniel.

Were they really headed to work with the Marines? In ten years of service he hadn’t ever realized that the Marines had special operation forces. But MARSOC—Marine Special Operations Command—had forces in regional Command West and, yes, indeed, Daniel and Bony were headed to join them.

A MSOT (Marine Special Operation Team) was what he would eventually work with. Hopefully they knew the dog team was coming because he would have no clue how to find them once he landed.

On the approach Daniel saw nothing but colorless flat land. Some would say it was a desert and he would have to agree with them, even though he had never actually seen a desert before. This sure as hell looked like one!

Nearly two hours later they finally landed with a thud at Camp Arena, Regional Command-West, Afghanistan and thankfully he was ushered to a waiting area by a representative from the Marines who had been expecting them.

The female sergeant asked, “What FOB (Forward Operating Base) are you guys headed to? I’m staying here at Camp Arena and would love to see Bony again.“

“Sorry, but we are headed to FOB Gilbert.” He could see the disappointment in her face. These dogs were a little touch of home for the deployed troops.

He gave “lover boy” a few seconds with his new “girlfriend.”

“Let’s roll, Sergeant,” said the Marine rep as a white SUV pulled up.

During the ground convoy from Camp Arena to FOB Gilbert, Daniel could have sworn that he had gone back in time a thousand years.

Camels, merchants with small stands on the dirt roadway, bearded robed men wearing sandals, and filthy children playing were scenes he had only seen in movies like Indiana Jones.Dan on ptrol

Now he was in the thick of the real things. This deployment was beginning to get real for him and MWD Bony.

“Are you our dog team?” asked the Gunny Sergeant.

“Roger, Gunny,”

“Great, we’ve been expecting you. We have our first mission in two days. We are short on bodies so we need to get you trained up on the CROWES [Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station] for the RG-31. You will be a machine gunner during ground convoys and a dog handler while dismounted.”

A gunner? What the hell? His job was to work MWD Bony.

It sounded like the team was short on men, though. He wasn’t sure if they were short because people had been injured or killed. It was probably better not to know.

Hell, if they were short then he would chip in any way he could. He’d do whatever it took to get through this deployment and return safely to his family.

“Roger, Gunny,” Daniel said again.

So for two straight days Daniel crammed for his CROWES operator test—that first test being the first time the patrol came under enemy fire.

It was a cool system, though, that allowed Daniel to sit inside the protection of the vehicle and operate the machine gun mounted to the turret of the RG-31 with a joy stick and a video screen. He was an expert at playing video games! But Afghanistan was no game. Here they played for keeps.

The first day of the mission was relatively uneventful as they visited isolated Afghan villages and checked on the Afghan Local Police and Army outposts. The only trouble Daniel had was trying to keep MWD Bony out of his lap while he operated the machine gun.Crowes

The second day, as they stopped at an Afghan Local Police checkpoint, Daniel yawned and rubbed his eyes. They had slept on the ground the night before and that day seemed like it was going to be as unexciting as the one before.

Suddenly explosions ripped through the air and the vehicle rattled as rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) exploded behind and in front of Daniel’s vehicle.

Small arms fire erupted and he could hear tink, tink, tink as bullets pelted the armored vehicle.

The Taliban were attacking!

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Book cover

Back in the Saddle!

Surgery Update:

Two weeks has passed since my surgery and I’m doing much better. Thanks to everyone for your well wishes! I’m still having trouble sleeping because of pain in my shoulder but, it looks like something I’ll have to deal with for some time.

Physical therapy is on my own right now. I will see the doctor next week. He was pleased with the results of the surgery but there was a lot more damage than he originally had seen from the MRI- hence why the surgery lasted over six hours.

Last week I bought an indoor bike since I won’t be hitting the streets anytime soon. It’s not the saddle I’d prefer to be riding but it will do for now. I’ll be back on the road riding my bike next spring. Not on the bike that was destroyed though!

I’m still out of work but plan to pull myself up to the computer and write this week. Writing always makes me feel better!

Exciting News:

I’m excited to announce my first published work outside of my blog!

I am honored to be a contributor to, In Dogs We Trust: which was recently published.

I met Lonnie Hodge and his service dog Gander during the American Humane Association Hero Dog Award. Lonnie is a disabled veteran suffering from PTSD whose life was transformed by 2 1/2 year old Labradoodle – Gander, who is 72 pounds of pure devotion. They now travel the country advocating for veteran suicide prevention and service dog awareness.

When Lonnie approached me this summer and asked me to contribute, I didn’t hesitate. My contribution to the book is the true story of U.S. Army Specialist John Nolan and Specialized Search Dog Honza “Bear” who battle the snow, cold and Taliban to protect their Green Beret brothers from improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.

Here is the trailer for the book:

This is a great book with a greater mission: Saving Dogs and Saving Lives…..

In Dogs We Trust: Tales of Unconditional Love, Inspiration and Sacrifice

A book by world class writers with 100% of the proceeds going to the Lt. Michael Murphy Scholarship Fund, rescue dog, service dog and trauma recovery charities.

Authors include: Trident Warrior Dog author Mike Ritland, LZ Grace Vets Retreat Center Director Lynn Bukowski, Writer and Soldier Kevin Hanrahan, Veteran Traveler Lon Hodge, Actor Bruce Littlefield, Dog Whisperer Paul Owens, National Mill Dog Rescue, Clear Conscience Pet CEO Anthony Bennie and many more…All donated their time and talent!

Buy now and say who sent you and 50% of the purchase price will go immediately to a cause. And Clear Conscience Pet will give you a $10 gift certificate, and you will get another $10 off the full print edition due out in December which will include luminaries like Dr. Patricia McConnell and Ted Kerasote.

It is available for download here:

http://veterantraveler.com/in-dogs-we-trust-3/

Or on the Kindle Store (no coupons): http://tinyurl.com/Indogswetrust

Discount Code: Honza

Note: Make sure you have an e-reader other than iReader. If not then you should go to the kindle store. Remember, 100% of the proceeds go to veteran and service dog charities!

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Military Working Dog Bony

Military Working Dog Bony is Looking for a Home

Military Working Dog Bony needs a home! The Grey Wolf, Bony is retiring from the Army and SGT Daniel Sandoval is looking for a good home for his loyal friend. Daniel can’t adopt Bony because he has three small children and Bony needs to go to a home that doesn’t have small children. 

Bony H383 is a ten year old German Shepherd. He is a patrol explosive detector dog (PEDD) and has one deployment to Iraq and two to Afghanistan to his credit. He has numerous explosives finds to his credit.

Dan and BonyIt is highly recommended that Bony’s future owner be a prior canine handler who is familiar with the patrol portion of a working dog. If you want Bony, and are not a prior handler, you will have to sign a waiver stating that you understand that Bony may bite.

Medical issues: hips/back going (slowly) he is starting to “bunny hop” and he will be on meds for his Perianal Fistual.

Bony is loyal, loving (especially with the ladies), completely crate trained and needs a yard to roam so apartment living wouldn’t be ideal for him.

Bony is located at Ft Bragg, NC and you would need to pick him up.

Dan and Military Working Dog Bony

The Grey Wolf scopes out the ladies.

If you are interested in adopting Bony please contact Sergeant Daniel Sandoval at dsandoval_1@hotmail.com.

Follow this link to learn more about Military Working dog Bony.

Please share this post and spread the word- a 4-legged war hero needs your help!

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Accident Update

I posted picture of me leaving the emergency room last week on my Facebook page. I was hit by car while cycling. I’m still in a lot of pain and sleeping is impossible. I actually just moved to the guest bed last night! But I’m happy to be alive.

I had an MRI last week and saw the orthopedic surgeon.  I go in for surgery this Thursday and am looking forward to getting that over with and beginning the recovery.

I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated but not sure how well my left arm will work. Right now I’m typing with one hand.

Thanks to everyone for your kind wishes, it is really appreciated. I’ll be back writing as soon as possible!

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U.S. Army Sgt. Clevaun Fluellen, 3rd Military Police Detachment dog handler, says his goodbyes to Duuk, 3rd MP Det. explosives detection military working dog at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013. Duuk was adopted after eight years of military service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Released)

Farewell to MWD Duuk: A Day to Remember

U.S. Army Sgt. Clevaun Fluellen, 3rd Military Police Detachment dog handler, says his goodbyes to Duuk, 3rd MP Det. explosives detection military working dog at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013. Duuk was adopted after eight years of military service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Released) 

Last week I had the opportunity to say goodbye to Military Working Dog Duuk after eight years of service to our country. The 11 year old German Sheppard was assigned to my kennel at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

MWD Duuk is a bundle of love who still has the heart and mind of a working dog but his hip dysplasia is beginning to get the better of him.

As I listened to our Kennelmaster, Sergeant First Class Walker, brief Duuk’s new owner, I was elated to hear that MWD Duuk’s  was allowed to received health care for MWD Duuk from the Fort Eustis veterinarian office.

Finally at the user level this act is making a difference.

I reflected on all the campaigning and bureaucracy that many great folks like Lisa Phillips from Retired Military Working Dog Organization, Ron Aiello from U.S. War Dog Association, Senator Blumenthal and Congressmen Jones endured to ensure the Canine Members of the Armed Service Act was passed in Congress last December.

Duuk, 3rd Military Police Detachment explosives detection military working dog, was adopted at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013, thanks to “Robby's Law.” “Robby’s Law,” passed in 2000, allows families to adopt MWDs after a screening process performed by the Department of Defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Released)

Duuk, 3rd Military Police Detachment explosives detection military working dog, was adopted at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013, thanks to “Robby’s Law.” “Robby’s Law,” passed in 2000, allows families to adopt MWDs after a screening process performed by the Department of Defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Released)

MWD Duuk $100-$140 in monthly medicine bill and any future veterinarian service will be provided by military veterinarians.

This is a HUGE win!

It was amazing to see MWD Duuk surrounded by the K9 handlers as he left the kennel, to see the respect and admiration for the dog was something I’ll never forget. MWD Duuk was loved.

MWD Duuk was our elder statesman of the kennel and, true to form, made two complete passes of the military members present to receive extra head rubs and words of praise.

As I rubbed his head I could see the age in the dog: grey fur, K9 teeth missing and the limp of an old man. But his tail still wagged and he nuzzled his nose against my thigh as I stroked his head and thanked him for his service.

MWD Duuk, didn’t seem like he wanted to leave, but when his new handler tugged lightly at the leash, the well trained dog fell to his side and they walked out of the kennel compound side by side.

Duuk, 3rd Military Police Detachment explosives detection military working dog, receives his goodbyes at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013. Duuk was adopted by Andrew Lou, Newport News Police Department detective, after Lou heard about Duuk’s service history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Released)

Duuk, 3rd Military Police Detachment explosives detection military working dog, receives his goodbyes at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013. Duuk was adopted by Andrew Lou, Newport News Police Department detective, after Lou heard about Duuk’s service history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Released)

Duuk now guards the couch at his new home in Williamsburg with his forever family, Newport News Police Detective Andrew Lou.

All retiring Soldiers deserve to be honored.

All retiring Soldiers deserve a proper good bye.

All retiring Soldiers deserve a family to love them.

MWD Duuk’s retirement, an event I will never forget. The story below is from the Fort Eustis Public Affairs Office and should have also credited CPT Zachary Franklin for writing half of the piece. If you look close you might even see SGT John Nolan and myself in the background of one of the pictures!

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Duuk’s departure: Military working dog adopted at Eustis

by  Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

9/10/2013 - FORT EUSTIS, Va.  – Many of the military working dogs employed by the U.S. Army have experienced multiple deployments throughout the world, and some have paid the ultimate sacrifice while dutifully conducting their missions.

After years of faithful service – usually upwards of 10 years – some MWDs have a chance to take off their vests and put on a collar as a family pet.
On Sept. 9, Duuk (pronounced “Duke”) became one such pet. Duuk, an 11-year-old explosives detection dog, served for the past eight years and was previously assigned to the 3rd Military Police Detachment at Fort Eustis.

Duuk, 3rd Military Police Detachment explosives detection military working dog, receives his final goodbyes from Soldiers of the 3rd MP Det. after being adopted at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013. MWDs usually serve up to 10 years before retiring, when they are then eligible for a screening process to be considered for adoption. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Released)

Duuk, 3rd Military Police Detachment explosives detection military working dog, receives his final goodbyes from Soldiers of the 3rd MP Det. after being adopted at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013. MWDs usually serve up to 10 years before retiring, when they are then eligible for a screening process to be considered for adoption. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Released)

Following years of faithful service including four deployments to Iraq, numerous demonstrations at various community events, law enforcement support to the installation and worldwide missions, Duuk was submitted to the MWD adoption program.

The program began in November 2000 when then-President Bill Clinton signed a bill called “Robby’s Law,” which allowed for the adoption of MWDs that are declared “excess” by the military and are deemed adoptable. Since then, families and prior handlers across the nation have adopted these warriors and brought them home to enjoy their retirement in the comfort and love of a home.

Duuk, as with other MWDs, went through a vetting process conducted by the 37th Training Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The dogs eligible for adoption are usually young dogs who did not meet the training requirements and have little to no training, or older dogs who are medically incapable to perform military duty. Duuk has minor hip problems, which is not surprising given his record, said U.S. Army Sgt John Nolan, 3rd MP Det. dog handler.

“Duuk has been with the [3rd MP Det.] since the very beginning of the unit,” said Nolan. “He is a gentle pup, and he definitely deserves a few years of rest after all of his hard work.”

Andrew Lou, Newport News Police Department detective, adopted Duuk after hearing his story.

“My wife and I have been looking for a dog for quite some time,” said Lou. “When we saw a [MWD] up for adoption, I called her and told her I found one.”

Andrew Lou, Newport News Police Department detective, receives Duuk, 3rd Military Police Detachment explosives detection military working dog, after adopting him from the Department of Defense at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013. Duuk was one of the original dogs owned by the 3rd MP Det., and has been deployed to Iraq four times in his life.

Andrew Lou, Newport News Police Department detective, receives Duuk, 3rd Military Police Detachment explosives detection military working dog, after adopting him from the Department of Defense at Fort Eustis, Va., Sept. 9, 2013. Duuk was one of the original dogs owned by the 3rd MP Det., and has been deployed to Iraq four times in his life.

Lou said he heard about Duuk and immediately looked into the adoption process to give the dog the rest he deserves.

“Being in the NNPD, I have seen a number of working dogs and I know how much they train and endure in their line of duty,” said Lou. “Duuk, and every other dog like him, have more than earned a retirement, and I know he will be a great companion to my family.”

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Medal of Honor ceremony in honor of Staff Sgt. Ty Carter

This is an amazing tale of heroism. Kudos to Staff Sergeant Ty Carter!

Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter receives the Medal of Honor from President Barack  Obama in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 26, 2013. Carter distinguished  himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and  beyond the call of duty while serving as a Scout with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron,  61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during  combat operations against an armed enemy in Kamdesh District, Nuristan province,  Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2009.

On that morning, Specialist Carter and his comrades  awakened to an attack of an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high  ground on all four sides of Combat Outpost Keating, employing concentrated fire  from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns,  mortars and small arms fire.

Specialist Carter reinforced a forward battle  position, ran twice through a 100-meter gauntlet of enemy fire to resupply  ammunition and voluntarily remained there to defend the isolated position. Armed  with only an M4 carbine rifle, Specialist Carter placed accurate, deadly fire on  the enemy, beating back the assault force and preventing the position from being  overrun, over the course of several hours.

With complete disregard for his own  safety and in spite of his own wounds, he ran through a hail of enemy rocket  propelled grenade and machine gun fire to rescue a critically wounded comrade  who had been pinned down in an exposed position. Specialist Carter rendered life  extending first aid and carried the Soldier to cover. On his own initiative,  Specialist Carter again maneuvered through enemy fire to check on a fallen Soldier and recovered the squad’s radio, which allowed them to coordinate their  evacuation with fellow Soldiers.

With teammates providing covering fire,  Specialist Carter assisted in moving the wounded soldier 100 meters through  withering enemy fire to the aid station and before returning to the fight.  Specialist Carter’s heroic actions and tactical skill were critical to the  defense of Combat Outpost Keating, preventing the enemy from capturing the  position and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. Specialist Ty M. Carter’s  extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in  keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit  upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade  Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.

Carter is  currently stationed as a staff noncommissioned officer with the 7th Infantry  Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and lives with his wife, Shannon, and their  three children. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)

I read a few stories on this yesterday and was humbled to read Staff Sergeant Carter’s words below:

Carter told reporters outside the White House that receiving the medal had been “one of the greatest experiences” for his family and that he would “strive to live up to the responsibility.”

He also said he wanted to help the American public to better understand the “invisible wounds” still inflicting him and thousands of others.

“Only those closest to me can see the scars,” Carter said, reading his statement. He said Americans should realize that those suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome “are not damaged, they are just burdened by living when others are not.”

Carter also emphasized removing the Disorder from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder label. This challenge facing our service members isn’t a disorder. That stigma deters young men and women from seeking the assistance they need.

SSG Carter is right.

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Police K-9 Spartacus Killed by his Partner: What Happened?

Recently, I wrote an article for The Mobility Resource that detailed the death of K-9 Spartacus, a three year old Belgian Malinois. Police K-9 Spartacus was left in the patrol vehicle by Police Officer Chad Berry for a reported 10 hours, in temperatures that reached the low 80s.

At 9:00 PM on 17 June, 2013, K-9 Spartacus was found dead in a city issued patrol car, apparently from heat stroke. The vehicle was at the home of K9 Officer Berry, K-9 Spartacus’s partner and handler.

The Woodstock Police and Pickens Sheriff’s Office conducted investigations into Spartacus’s death. A necropsy later confirmed the death was caused by heat stroke.

“Spartacus had been seen for an annual physical examination and vaccines on Feb. 21 and was found to be in good health at that time,” Woodstock Police Officer Milligan said.

According to Brittany Duncan, public information officer for Woodstock Police, Officer Berry has been suspended without pay for 80 hours (10 days), removed from the K-9 unit, reassigned to traffic enforcement and, fined $325 for violation of a county ordnance (cruelty to animals).

Investigation revealed that Officer Berry admitted to leaving K-9 Spartacus in his patrol vehicle.

After I read this, I wondered………what if the circumstances were different.

What if officers Berry and Spartacus were in hot pursuit of a suspected criminal? What would have happened if that suspected criminal had shot or stabbed and subsequently killed Spartacus?

Would Officer Berry want that criminal to face charges for the murder of a police officer?

Would the Woodstock community scream for justice?

Certainly there would have been more screams for justice when the offender received such a light sentence, right?

In Indianapolis, Indiana in 2007, Clinton Hernandez was sentenced to 20 years for killing K-9 Bo, a nine year old Belgian Malinois.

In Clarke County, Washington in 2011, H. Keegan Graves was sentenced to four years for stabbing to death K-9 Kane, an eight year old Dutch Sheppard.

The judge in the Melnick case felt so strongly that he wished he could have given him more time but stated that his hands were tied.

I didn’t uncover why his hands were tied but I ‘m assuming the judge was following sentencing guidelines associated with the criminal charge.

This is interesting to say the least. There seems to be a precedent being set for sending K9 cop killers to jail…… if you are a criminal.

I’ve watched the local papers in Woodstock Georgia over the past month and haven’t seen any screams for justice in K-9 Spartacus’s death.

In 2012, K-9 Magnum was killed in Anderson Indiana by Joseph Turner, who stated he was suffering from drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq.

Mr. Turner received a twelve year prison sentence for shooting K-9 Magnum

Anderson Police Chief Larry Crenshaw remarked.  “We want justice served. We want awareness that police dogs are police officers.”

During the trial, Officer Matt Jarrett, Magnum’s partner detailed how the dog’s death has traumatized him and his entire family.

So are these police dogs fellow officers or simply police equipment?

It appears that the answer depend upon whom you ask and the circumstances of death…….. and by whose hands.

It took only a few minutes to find these cases of past K9 deaths by criminals and there are plenty more incidents, like this one that hit the national news.

In March 2013, Kurt Myers, 64, killed four people and wounded two others during a shooting spree in Herkimer County, New York.

He also gunned down Ape, an FBI K-9, while being held up in an abandoned building before being killed by an FBI agent.

New York took notice of this incident and has taken action.

Two weeks ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to increase the charges against a person who kills a police dog or horse in the line of duty. Currently a Class A misdemeanor, the crime will be a Class E felony when the law takes effect Nov. 1.

“Police animals go where others will not in order to keep law enforcement officials and all New Yorkers safe from harm, and it’s a tragedy when one is killed,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This new law will hold the guilty parties accountable and offer better protections for these highly trained animals who are important members of our law enforcement community.”

But notice that Cuomo didn’t go as far as saying they were fellow Police Officers. If you follow the Class E felony, it is interesting to see where the state of New York groups this offense.

I see I’m starting to wander so………let’s rap this up.

Why do I bring this all up here?

Don’t I talk military dogs on this site?

Well here’s my thought process, if Military Working Dogs are fellow service members, then conversely Police Dogs are fellow Police Officers, right?

The thought processes and positions are the same. So if you support one, how can you not support the other?

Do you believe that that these dogs are fellow service members and officers of the law, or not?

Is Officer Berry a cop killer?

Should he have faced a negligent homicide charge?

What do you think should have happened to Officer Berry?

Is twelve years excessive for killing a Police K-9?

Please share your thought on the subject.

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TEDD David with glasses

Jeremy Meets his Explosive Detector Dog, “Handsome” David

Army Private First Class Jeremy Wirths was elated to be one of the 17 chosen from 175 volunteers in the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division to become a Tactical Explosive Detector Dog (TEDD) handler.

But could he really just pick up a leash and find explosives with a dog in Afghanistan?

Weren’t those dog teams highly trained and had years of experience together?

The traditional dog handler candidates attended the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School at Lackland for 14 weeks and were trained by experienced military handler instructors—generally the military’s best of the best.

Jeremy was being trained by mainly ex-military and law enforcement handlers for nine weeks at a civilian company, Vohne Liche Kennel, featured in the National Geographic show “Alpha Dogs”

Handsome DavidNine weeks compared to 14 weeks. Our military’s best compared to a group of retired civilians.

Surely the Army knew what they were doing, right? And his unit thought he could handle it.

Or were they just desperate for the asset?

He had Googled an article in the Washington Times that quoted Lt. Gen. Michel L. Oates, commander of the task force in charge of defeating roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan (Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization or JIEDDO), as saying that in 2010, the most effective tool was “two men and a dog,” even though the military had spent nearly $10 billion on new detection and clearing technologies.

It was no wonder the Army picked him up and was sending him to dog school.

But could he handle it? Could he really become proficient in nine weeks and then begin leading combat patrols as the point man with his dog?

Jeremy and DavidNone of that mattered to Jeremy. He was a soldier and, as such, would follow orders. If the guys downrange in Afghanistan needed dog teams, then he would give this school everything he had. He would do whatever it took to pass and do his part for his brothers and sisters in arms.

But TEDD School was daunting.

It was common knowledge thoughout the group that is would be a miracle if they reached the goal of 20 certified dog teams in nine weeks. Some groups had zero soldiers make the cut.

Regardless of his questions and doubts, Jeremy was excited to get the training started. His unit had decided to run another selection process and send 26 soldiers to training, hoping to have 20 graduates.

As they approached the Vohn Liche Kennel compound Jeremy was impressed by the sprawling grounds. The instructors running the course could have easily been Hell’s Angels members rather than dog experts with secret clearances. Large-framed, bearded, tattooed, and cocky, the instructors at Vohn Liche intimidated and impressed the young soldier.

Impressed and nervous as he was, Jeremy knew it was time to get to work when he was first handed a leash.

On the very first day of training as the soldiers were all getting out gear, training manuals, and dogs, Jeremy was handed his very first leash by an instructor.

“Once you get your leash head out into the field and just walk around with the dogs. Don’t worry, they won’t bite you. Hopefully.”

Wait. What? Just walk out there with these dogs. What about that old saying: don’t pet strange dogs?

“Wirths, the big Malinois, TEDD David, is yours. Now go make friends.”

The dog looked like he weighed somewhere between 75-80 pounds, was very energetic, and looked happy as he walked around sniffing the ground curiously. TEDD David had a beautiful mahogany coat, a black muzzle, and tipping throughout his coat.

It almost looked like he was a “dirty bond”! But the dog sure was handsome.

“Handsome,” Jeremy called out to David.

David kept his distance but couldn’t seem to help himself from casually glancing at Jeremy as he was closing the gap between them.

“Good boy,” Jeremy gave the dog encouragement every time the dog glanced his way.

Finally after a few minutes of cooing at the Belgian Malinois, Jeremy put out his hand for the dog to sniff.

“Handsome” David took one sniff, wagged his tail slowly, and leaped up on Jeremy.

Jeremy stumbled back from the force of the powerful dog but quickly regained his balance and rubbed the dog’s head.

As “Handsome” David groaned, Jeremy knew he had just made a best friend. All day long the instructors had impressed upon the handler candidates the importance of the bond between handler and dog.

“It is the difference between passing and failing. It is the difference between living and dying in Afghanistan.”

DavidThose words echoed in Jeremy’s brain.

Step one was complete. Now he could get to the real work. He still had no clue how a dog found explosives or how he was supposed to know the dog had found something.

But with the country at war, and his brothers and sisters dying in Afghanistan, Jeremy knew it was time for him to figure this shit out so he could get his butt over there and do his part.

Hopefully “Handome” David would cooperate.

Can Jeremy pick up the craft of dog handling in only nine weeks?

 Will Jeremy stand in David’s way to certification?

How do the two bond and why is the bond between dog and handler so critical?

 Stay tuned for the next chapter in this exciting series!

Follow this link to Chapter I in his series.

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