Monthly Archives: June 2012

Military Working Dog Bony

Redemption? Daniel and Military Working Dog Bony

Falsely accused,  judgment passed on him without proof, Sergeant Daniel Sandoval had been sentenced to K9 death–a career without a dog. But Sandoval is determined to come back to redeem his good name and set the record straight.

His guide to the road back? The Grey Wolf, Military Working Dog Bony.

“You failed certification on purpose, Sergeant. You don’t want to deploy, do you?”

Sergeant Daniel Sandoval’s skin began to tingle and his head to spin, but he couldn’t find the words to respond.

Avoid a deployment? Why would he do that? He had heard of handlers doing this, but that wasn’t in his nature. He knew that his fellow handlers were beginning to get fatigued with constant deployments. He had already deployed to Kosovo and Cuba, but Daniel was ready to head to combat. The problem was his Military Working Dog Marco.

The nine-year-old Belgian Malinois wouldn’t release his bite when he attacked. He also needed work on his fringe sitting. The damn dog would sit as soon as he entered the odor cone. He would be close but not directly on the scent. Daniel wanted to head back to Fort Campbell and fix Marco. Now he was being berated and dressed down when he should have been out working with Marco.

Daniel was finally able to muster, “S-s-sergeant. No. We, we just had a bad week. Marco has a frin…..”

“Bullshit, Sandoval. I know what I heard and I am tired of this crap from cowards like you. I’m getting my ass handed to me because we can’t get our teams certified. I‘m tired of guys like you.”

This was the first time Daniel had failed certification in the year he had been a dog handler. His family was already moved home to Pennsylvania in anticipation of this deployment. He was ready to go. He had no idea why he was being accused of purposely failing now.

“I am recommending to the Commander that you be removed from the kennels, Sandoval. I don’t need cancers like you round.”

Daniel had just received the kiss of death in the K9 world. It didn’t matter that he had taken a straight explosive detector dog and made him into a patrol explosive detector dog. It didn’t matter that he had never failed certification before. His side of the story didn’t matter to anyone. His name was now mud in the close-knit K9 world.

In 2007 Daniel was ostracized, sent away from the kennels, and then cast away to the recruiting world. For those years, a bitter Daniel wanted only one thing—redemption.

In 2011, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he finally had the chance he so desperately sought. But would the chain of command at Fort Bragg allow him the opportunity?

The Fort Bragg Kennel Master ran his eyes from Daniel’s head down to his feet—carefully surveying his new handler. Daniel trembled slightly and held his breath as he stood rigidly.

“Sergeant Sandoval. Yeah, I’ve heard about you.”

Crap, thought Daniel. This guy has already passed judgment on me.

“Sergeant, let me explain. I didn’t……..”

The Sergeant First Class kennel master raised his hand towards Daniel and said, “Shut up Sandoval. You just do your damn job. I’ll take care of the politics and chatter around here. Is that understood?”

Daniel blinked slowly several times, processed what had just been said, and finally released the air captured in his lungs. He was going to get his chance at redemption.

But would he really get a fair shake in this kennel? His kennel master was only one guy. What would the other handlers think of him? Nothing mattered right now though. His kennel master was offering him his only chance. He wasn’t about to blow it.

“Roger, Sergeant First Class. I won’t let you down,” Daniel said firmly.

“OK, good. I am assigning you to Military Working Dog Bony, the grey wolf. He is an experienced dog who likes to do things his way. You get like that when you are the grey beard of the kennel. Let’s go see him.”

Likes to do his own thing? Wolf? What the hell? Was the kennel master trying to sabotage him and give him a crappy dog? He kept his mouth shut.

“Bony just had Pexi surgery to prevent his stomach from turning and causing bloat,” the kennel master informed him.

They stopped and Daniel peered into the kennel curiously.

He surveyed the massive German Shepherd who stared back at him with mild curiosity. His once black ears, now mixed with grey, perked and stood straight up. The Shepherd’s once black muzzle was now intermixed with grey. It wasn’t just his face, though. Bony had grey all over him. His body was long and thick. How old is this dog, thought Daniel?

It was like his kennel master could read his mind. “Bony is nine. He’s been a MWD for seven years. He already has two deployments. He thinks he runs this place. Your first mission will be to show him he doesn’t.”

Bony stood up and calmly strolled to the kennel door and sniffed Daniel’s outstretched hand. He didn’t linger, choosing instead to return to his bed.

“Looks like you have some work to do, Sandoval,” his kennel master said as he marched back up the kennel toward his office.

Daniel watched the man go and then turned to the Wolf Dog who had his eyes shut and was now sleeping. Daniel knew his kennel master was right. It was time for Sergeant Daniel Sandoval to reclaim his good name.

Part II of this story is now published!

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dog-stress

Life After Being Rejected by Literary Agents

Gut Check Time!

Resiliency? Check

Determination? Check.

Work ethic? Check.

Unwilling to accept the answer “no”? Check.

Will to succeed? How could I not?

These are all personality attributes that I’ve developed, nurtured, and harnessed in my leadership style as an Army officer. I figured that the publishing world was no different than the Army when it comes to how to become successful.

Talent is the other piece of the puzzle. As much as I loathe using this word to describe myself…..Check.

I may have lost the first battle, but I determined to come back stronger, smarter and with all guns firing. Down but not defeated—I went back to work.

I called independent editor Patrick Lobrutto the very same day agent XXXX recommended him to me. Pat is an independent editor but also a scout for Trident Media.

I described in great detail the journey of my manuscripts. Pat was confident we could fix the manuscript and get it right back in the hands of agent XXXX who would love it. He was oozing with confidence and got me pumped about editing the novel. I knew if I gave my book to him he could fix it. My two reservations with Pat were his set fee without looking at the manuscript and his list of past successes. He has many past successes, but they were mainly category fiction—crime, science fiction, and thriller. Though I wasn’t sure then how to categorize  Paws on the Ground, I knew it wasn’t one of those.

As I was talking with editors, I began to edit the 126,000 world novel every morning before work. This was a bad call. I still had this idea that if I condensed the first half of the book to fix the pacing and threw in a prologue, it would be ready for re-submission quickly.

What I thought I learned at the James River Writers Conference was that saying something in fewer words is always a good thing. So I went through the first 250 pages of the book and hacked away.  I was trimming with reckless abandon, though, and what I ended up cutting was in many cases the richness of the novel. That would come back to haunt me.

I next called Ed Stackler, another agent XXXX recommendation. I left a message on his answering machine.

Here is something I learned through this whole process: getting an audience with this level of editor is in itself a big deal. They don’t just take any Joe Schmoe with a book idea. Guys like this can pretty much pick and choose whom they want to work with.

I decided I wasn’t just going to put all my eggs in two baskets. It was then that I had an epiphany. If agent XXXX had guys he worked with, then other agents might as well. So I went to work scouring agency sites looking for recommended editors. Sorry, I can’t remember where I found my final two considerations for an editor, but it was from an agency site.

I sent an email to independent editors John Paine and Jennifer Fisher . John called me within a day to discuss the project. He was oozing with confidence, but he was more reserved, descriptive of his editing process, and his pricing was phased. He told me his job wasn’t to babysit or to do the work for me. He was there to guide me. When I hung up the phone with John I had the feeling he would make me a better writer. I instantly felt a connection to him.

I received an email from Jennifer. I liked what she had to say and she was well qualified, but I pushed her down the list because I already felt a more personal connection to Pat and John after our phone conversations.

Ed Stackler reviewed my novel and replied back that the book wasn’t for him. He was more of a plot-driven crime/thriller guy and by then I knew my novel is a character-driven book. He gave me some great advice though:

“……you can’t hold a reader by telling the characters’ life stories, starting in their teens, and moving forward slowly and chronologically. You can get away with it in a prologue, a conventional means of showing readers what came before the main story; but you lose the more commercially-minded readers (a/k/a many, if not most, lit. agents) by taking the tell-it-all approach. So – if my opinion counts for anything – more trimming and cutting won’t do the trick. Readers are going to want what you’re selling – the Afghanistan/military/dog story – almost from the beginning of the book.”

I knew Ed was right. I just needed to hear it from a guy with his expertise and experience. I began to come to terms with the fact that simple trimming wasn’t going to work. The idea that I needed to cut and then re-write the first part of the book began to become acceptable in my mind.

Another thing I learned about this level of editor is that they have connections with agents. This level of editor can get your novel in the hands of an agent. Of course there is no guarantee this will happen.

I continued to labor, but I felt relief instantly when I made the final decision. I was going with John Paine.

So I placed my John Hancock on a contract, sent it back to John along with the novel, and anxiously awaited his editorial report. I occupied my time with working on my new venture—this website.

What steps have you taken after being rejected by an agent?

What were the results?

Even though he had no connection to agent XXXX , do you think John was the right editor for me?

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Military Working Dog

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 27th, 2012)

The captions on these photos were incomplete. I couldn’t resist posting these photos though. This Marine Military Working Dog is beautiful. Her name is Sakal

 

  

 Lance Cpl. Steven Lilley, a Provost Marshal’s Office working dog handler, rewards his dog with a Kong and affection after he hit his scent. (Photo by Cpl. R.J. Driver)

In case you missed or want to revisit prior weeks. Here are the links. 

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 20th, 2012) Video footage directly from Afghanistan!

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 13th, 2012) Anax Retires!

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 6th, 2012) Guardians of the Night.

Also check out my new Video Page!

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Dog Bless you

Help a Veteran get a Dog

I’ve explained my deep connection to the power of the pooch to you all in a prior post. Here is an organization that I urge you to support. They are donating service dogs to veterans. It will cost you nothing to support their efforts. Here is their press release:

Dog Bless You Launches Social Media Challenge Grant to Pair Service Dogs with Military Vets in Need 

Philanthropic Dog Community to Donate a Service Dog for Every 1,000 Follows to its Facebook, Tumblr or Pinterest Pages through the end of July;

Offers People a Way to Support Troops without Opening Wallet   

Santa Monica, CA- Dog Bless You, a philanthropic community created to champion the selfless acts of dogs and celebrate the unique role they play in improving the human condition, issued a challenge grant today that will pair service and companion dogs with military veterans in need. The challenge grant, dubbed Sprit of ‘76, aims to provide people an easy and free way to contribute to a good deed and show support to service men and women, while providing a platform for sharing unique stories and raising awareness about the healing role dogs play in the lives of those affected by war.

From now until Independence Day (July 4th) Dog Bless You will donate a service or companion dog to an American veteran in need for every 1,000 followers to its Facebook, Pinterest or Tumblr pages. From PTSD to those with life changing injuries, the organization will feature new pictures, videos and stories of war veterans and their dogs every day and work with dozens of service dog organizations to foster discussions aimed at educating and inspiring. 

Dog Bless You was founded and is led by Charlie Annenberg Weingarten, vice president of The Annenberg Foundation, who is also the founder of explore.org, a philanthropic media organization created to champion the selfless acts of others and inspire lifelong learning. Since its founding 2011, Dog Bless You has used challenge grants to brings search and rescue dogs to locations ravaged by disasters, pair seeing eye dogs with the blind, and bring more than 40 service dogs to veterans with PTSD. This year’s challenge grant, valued at up to one million dollars, will be the biggest initiative in the community’s history. The organization never asks for donations, believing that the commitment of time and show of support is the best vehicle for creating awareness and engagement around important issues. 

“Dogs are the guardian angels of the human soul, and few people need or deserve them more than those who have served our country” said Annenberg. “If we entrust dogs to help critical missions on the fields of war, we should entrust dogs to help take care of our men and women at home”. 

Participating organizations include Pets to Vets, Soldier’s Best Friend, Puppies Behind Bars, Freedom Service Dogs, Paws for Purple Hearts, Paws and Stripes, Patriotic Paws, and ECAD, with more to be added during the course of the campaign. 

 More about Issues Facing Veterans: 

45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related

  • Veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14
  • Forty percent of all homeless people are veterans.
  • PTSD occurs in about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom), 10% of Veterans of the Gulf War (Desert Storm), and 30% of Vietnam Veterans.
  • Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.
  • Health care costs for all veterans with PTSD will be an estimated $6.2 billion biannually.
  • Eighteen veterans will commit suicide every day  

I’m honored to support Dog Bless You and spread the word of their campaign. Dogs can make a difference with our veterans. I know one who has already.

Sammy Adams Hanrahan…. just lounging around waiting for some love.

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Breaking News!

Hi. As a subscriber to my site I wanted you to be one of the first persons to hear my great news. This week I signed an agency agreement with the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. I am now represented by literary agent Victoria Skurnick. 

I am super excited to finally land an agent. It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point. I know there is much hard work to come before Paws on the Ground sees the book shelves.  With your support I know I am ready for the challenge.

There were some dark days for me as I went through this process of landing an agent. One of the main things that helped me through this process was you.  Whether it was funny or kind comments to one of my posts, just the very act of subscribing or a direct email, you encouraged me to drive on. So thank you so very much for your support.

If you didn’t notice…..I put a video link on the main menu bar on the website. It is right next to the photo link. I am going to post cool Military Working Dog videos and maybe some other stuff as I develop the site.

If there is anything you want me to post about please don’t hesitate to recommend! I am always open to new ideas that don’t stray from the core of the site.

Have a great weekend.

Best,
Kevin

3544610856_641494d1d7_b

What Do You Do When You’re Rejected by Literary Agents?

When I last left you I had just left the James River Writing Conference with a full head of steam.

I sent out an email to all seven agents who had my novel. I updated them on my wonderful Pitchapalooza news, commitment of a blurb from a New York Times Best Selling author, all the while not asking for an update.

What was the response? Silence. Yep, nothing. My insecurities rose and I began to stress.

Two days later I received an email from the agent at the conference who requested my manuscript—rejection. Crap! I told myself this wasn’t her type of book anyway, but my confidence was beginning to dwindle.

A day later I received this email from agent Jeff XXXXXX:

“So I’ve given this a look and was disappointed to find that the first 150 pages on my e-reader was devoted to back-story before the characters get into war time. This won’t work! You need to leap right into the story and just develop the back-story in the occasional flashback. If you do revise it you can come back to me.”

Great advice and I really appreciated Jeff taking the time to let me know this, unlike some agents who apparently just threw my submission into the trash because I never heard from them. But I still thought some agent would take a chance with me.

A couple days later I received a thin envelope from agent Susan XXXXXX. I knew it wasn’t good news. It wasn’t.

“Thank you for sending me Paws on the Ground. I enjoyed your detail description of the circumstances that lead to the protagonists to enlist and inner conflict the protagonists feel after graduating high school. However I feel this manuscript is not ready for representation. There are places in the beginning of the novel where the writing is not fluid and the pacing feels slow. Paws on the Ground would benefit from a couple more rounds of revision, but unfortunately this project is not for us.”

A few weeks ago I was sailing on top of the world full of confidence and now my sail was sliced and diced! I still held out in hopes of one agent–Scott XXXXXX.

Four days later I received an email from agent Scott XXXXX. Heart pounding and head spinning I opened the email from my initial dream agent. Rejection.  It appeared to be a form letter rejection.

O my….now my world went spinning downwards, but I needed to get it under control. So I did the unthinkable and emailed him back two days later. I asked him a simple question:

“If you could give you one or two pointers on what would have made a difference, I would really appreciate it.”

His response:

“I felt that the narrative was not fast paced enough and that it took too long until we got to the heart of the story.”

Damn it….. I knew this was going to be a problem. I knew if I could get the agents into the book that they would love it. But guess what? This is not a good strategy! You need to grab your reader and agent right away. Teach them something new or excite them immediately.

Scott was kind enough to agree to re-read my novel if I edited the book. He recommended I hire an experienced commercial fiction editor to guide me through the novel. He also gave me two recommendations of commercial editors that he works with frequently.

I’m new to this business, but I’m not senseless. I had three agents tell me the same thing and a host of high-level agents reject my submission. I came to terms with the fact that there was something wrong with my submission. I didn’t dwell on the rejection. I realized I needed to fix it. In my world failure is not an option.

But with a new baby coming and money already invested in the first edit I agonized over the next step. I discussed this dilemma with my wife. Since we moved to Virginia Megan had left behind her job in North Carolina. We weren’t hurting for money, but our bank account was basically drained.

“If I don’t try, then I will regret this the rest of life. The only failure in life is not trying,” I told her.

She hugged me and said, “Kevin, I support whatever you decide. I don’t want you to regret this for the rest of your life.”

I knew I had her blessing so I took the next logical step. I consulted with my trusted mentor Ginger Moran who encouraged me to find an editor that was deeply intertwined in the New York publishing world.

I still hadn’t heard from the Book Doctor, David Sterry, and wanted to before hiring an editor. But I commenced my search for a new editor. I also began a new list of agents who had requested a re-submission. I began with two.

I was down, but I wasn’t defeated. They hadn’t seen the last of me.

Note: Originally I had actual agent names in my posts. I received some advice to remove them. It is probably for the best so I decided to remove them.

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Tactical Explosive Detection Dog: TEDD Afghanistan; Kandahar Air Field’s; International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Regional Command-South; Kandahar Air FieldÕs; International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Regional Command-;

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 20th, 2012) Video footage directly from Afghanistan!

Sgt. Anouska a Tactical Explosive Detection Dog has just found detonation cord under a T-wall and now stands at attention to let his handler know that he has found some explosives. This was a demonstration showcasing different types of military dogs and their capabilities at International Security Assistance Force Regional Command-South headquarters on Kandahar Air Field.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jimmie Crockett)

As promised-actually footage of  Working Dog Diego “sniffing it” Khandahar style!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BNFmgAE2ks[/youtube] 

Renco, a military working dog with the Provost Marshall's Office, takes a well earned break after running a circuit obedience course. Renco and Lance Cpl. Sky T. Bryson, have worked together for almost ten months.

Renco, a military working dog with the Provost Marshall’s Office, takes a well earned break after running a circuit obedience course. Renco and Lance Cpl. Sky T. Bryson, have worked together for almost ten months.

Renco, a military working dog with the Provost Marshall's Office, takes a well earned break after running a circuit obedience course. Renco and Lance Cpl. Sky T. Bryson, have worked together for almost ten months.

 In case you missed or want to revisit prior weeks. Here are the links.

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 13th, 2012) Anax Retires!

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 6th, 2012) Guardians of the Night.

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 30th, 2012) SGT Rex Retires!

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Coba, a 3-year-old chocolate lab and tactical explosives detector dog, chews contently on a tennis ball as David Sheffer, her handler and a dog trainer with Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind., explains the capabilities of the dog June 14 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., during a demonstration of Coba?s abilities for 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers, role players and government civilians. Sheffer spent 10 days ? from June 5 to 15 ? escorting Coba to various companies and platoons across the brigade, which will soon select 25 handlers for training to lead a similar dog in Afghanistan when they deploy later this fall. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

Coba: The Army’s Newest Sensation

Story by Sgt. Christopher Gaylord 

FORT IRWIN, Calif. – Her tail wagging uncontrollably as passersby brush their hands across her fur, Coba, a 3-year-old chocolate lab, often stands for a lot of things.

She’s the dog troops leave at home before deploying; the one they grew up with. She’s a fond memory, a beacon of happiness – temporarily, if nothing else – in a place far from home.

David Sheffer, a dog trainer with Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind., leads Coba, a 3-year-old chocolate lab and tactical explosives detector dog, as she sniffs out a sack of explosives residue hidden under a traffic cone June 14 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., during a demonstration of Coba?s abilities for 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers, role players and government civilians. Sheffer spent 10 days ? from June 5 to 15 ? escorting Coba to various companies and platoons across the brigade, which will soon select 25 handlers for training to lead a similar dog in Afghanistan when they deploy later this fall. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

“I just have to ask. Can I pet her?” a soldier asked Coba’s trainer, who brought Coba to the National Training Center, where soldiers with the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division are making final preparations for a fall deployment to Afghanistan, to demonstrate her capabilities as a bomb-sniffing dog.

“I miss my dog,” the soldier said, kneeling down to stroke Coba’s coat of thick, brown fur, his gentler side clearly getting the best of him.

And the other soldiers who stood gathered in the section of tent shelter where Coba lay on the floor panting from the desert heat all agreed – they missed theirs, too.

Coba serves as a tactical explosives detector dog, or TEDD – a canine trained under a two-year-old program whose job it is to sniff out bombs in combat zones. She’s man’s best friend and also one of his best weapons on today’s battlefield.

Her handler, David Sheffer, who works as a trainer for Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind., where Coba and the other TEDDs learn their trade, brought her to a mock forward operating base on NTC June 14 so soldiers, civilians and Afghan role players could see her talents.

Fourth Brigade will soon select 25 soldiers from across its ranks and from different career fields to train at Vohne Liche before the brigade’s fall deployment to Afghanistan. Once overseas, their sole jobs will be to care for and escort their issued dogs to regions in need of explosives detection capabilities – to interpret the behaviors of their furry friends and to trust in them.

To find the right soldiers for the demanding two-month course, Sheffer spent June 5 to 15 travelling to various companies and platoons in the brigade spread out across NTC.

Coba, a 3-year-old chocolate lab and tactical explosives detector dog, chews contently on a tennis ball as David Sheffer, her handler and a dog trainer with Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind., explains the capabilities of the dog June 14 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., during a demonstration of Coba?s abilities for 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers, role players and government civilians. Sheffer spent 10 days ? from June 5 to 15 ? escorting Coba to various companies and platoons across the brigade, which will soon select 25 handlers for training to lead a similar dog in Afghanistan when they deploy later this fall. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

“We’re trying to show and demonstrate the capabilities of these dogs to build some excitement with the soldiers that are out here to get them exposed to this program and to get the commanders used to working the dogs in this environment,” said Sheffer, a San Antonio native.

“It is definitely a force enhancer and a force multiplier.”

Army observers monitoring training for the soldiers of 4th Brigade, who run, oversee and assess the performance of units at NTC, hid small paper sacks of explosive residue inside the tent for Coba to locate.

A small audience of soldiers watched closely as Coba sought out the scents with ease, stopping briefly to lick the face of a sergeant first class sitting in the room.

Sheffer flicked the fingers of one hand as if to be spritzing water across the floor as he used the other to hold Coba’s leash with absolute grace, allowing her to lead him around the confined area.

“Woo, good girl!” he cheered, praising her success.

Then, he took her outside to show her off to an assembly of soldiers, Afghan role players portraying Afghan army soldiers and government civilians.

For Sheffer, who spent 14 of his 22 years as an Air Force military policeman working with dogs, showcasing the abilities of four-legged secret weapons like Coba is an important mission.

But it tends to be the more dog-like things that ultimately draw troops in.

“Obviously, her ideal mission is to go out and find explosives, but if it will help the soldier, sailor, airman and Marine get through, then I’ll call her a therapy dog also,” said Sheffer as Coba relaxed on the tent floor, a tennis ball laid before her paws next to a pool of water she lapped from a Dixie cup moments before.

“Most of them have pets at home that they miss – and it just brings them closer to their families and pets back home,” he said. “Everywhere we go, people stop and say, ‘oh, I miss my dog. It’s so great to see your dog out here.’ ”

Sheffer travels to installations and training centers across the country seeking out the right soldiers to lead the uniquely trained dogs overseas. This is the second appearance the TEDDs have made at NTC.

But wherever Sheffer goes, the reactions are the same, and the softer side of troops shows through.

“Every time we went out to a platoon or company, the soldiers wanted to come over and pet the animals,” he said.

Coba, a 3-year-old chocolate lab and tactical explosives detector dog, chews contently on a tennis ball as David Sheffer, her handler and a dog trainer with Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind., explains the capabilities of the dog June 14 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., during a demonstration of Coba?s abilities for 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers, role players and government civilians. Sheffer spent 10 days ? from June 5 to 15 ? escorting Coba to various companies and platoons across the brigade, which will soon select 25 handlers for training to lead a similar dog in Afghanistan when they deploy later this fall. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

“What it does is lift the doldiers’ spirit,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Pippin, the training observer who followed Sheffer and his dog around for their visit to the training center. “They see something that reminds them of home – that first pet they might have had.”

And to Sheffer, that can be a game changer for not only motivation but job performance.

“It’s just a little piece of home,” he said. “And the happier you are, the better you’re going to function.

“That’s just the psychology of any job – if you’re out there and something made you happy, it’s just going to boost your morale and make you want to go out and perform.”

Pippin, a 21-year Army military policeman who oversaw the deployment of explosives detection dogs to various operating bases across Afghanistan on his most recent deployment, has witnessed that first hand.

“I’ve had soldiers say, ‘hey, sergeant, can I play with your dog?’ And then they’re like, ‘hey, sergeant, I’m ready, let’s go!’ ” he said.

“For some strange reason, petting a dog – whatever anger’s built up goes right away,” he added. “It’s a great stress reliever to play with the dog.”

It’s a proven fact, Pippin said, that the dogs work as successful explosives detection devices.

But this device, trying to cool off in middle of the Mojave Desert, is different. It will lick you; it will love you; it will take you back to a place you miss.

And almost always, it will bring out the best in you.

Coba in action!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWaGiICYx3Q[/youtube]Furry force multipliers a big hit at National Training Center

Note: 

This isn’t my piece but I think it gives everyone a nice glimpse into how the Army is outfitting units preparing for deployment to Afghanistan with the 4- legged assets they need to safeguard troops.

Of course I love to publicize anything regarding the Tactical Explosive Detector Dog (TEDD) program. It is my baby and I love to watch the program mature and grow. We designed the program to augment the incredibly stressed permanent Military Working Dog Community. The TEDD program is not a program of record so it will most likely go away after the war.

Funny coincidence- the Sergeant First Class mentioned in the article, Kelly Pippin, was one of my squad leaders when I was a Second Lieutenant in Korea.

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Military Working Dog Honza laying down

Warning: The Bear Has Been Poked

You may wish to read Part I, John and the Lumbering “Honza Bear or Part II, Honza Bear Roars and Then Sputters, of this series first before reading Part III below.

The steady cool breeze sends shivers down John’s back, but he isn’t cold. He can feel his chest pounding.  He draws a mouthful of moist air into his lungs and then blows it out. He watches the big cloud of air form inches from his face.

“Woof. Woof.”

Military Working Dog Honza's Big HeadJohn turns and looks into the military police truck. He sees the yellow square shape head of Honza Bear and sighs. He knows this is their last chance to certify as a working dog team. They are supposed to be deploying to Afghanistan in two weeks. They had already failed once.  If they fail today then he isn’t sure if they will even be a team any longer.

Honza whines and scratches at the metal mesh door of the plastic ferry kennel.

“Listen, Bear. We aren’t going back to Virginia a failure. This is serious. We need to pass certification so we can go to Afghanistan and protect our troops,” John says as he pinches Honza’s lips together and pulls the dog’s face close to his.  He almost immediately wishes his tone had been softer.

Honza begins to growl.

“Do you understand, Bear?”Military Working Dog Honza

Honza ‘s growl gets louder. It’s a deep series of low, piercing belly growls, but they are definitely directed at John. Honza pulls his head back, freeing his lips from John’s grasp. He begins pawing at the door as John is called over for the in-brief.

Honza begins to bark loudly and John can feel his brown eyes burning a hole in his back.

Three days later Honza is no longer lumbering. He is rumbling along at a pace John has never seen him work before. They easily pass all the trials and are breezing through certification—until the last trial.

Honza is moving so fast during the building search that he runs right past the explosive training aides. He misses everything. This means they fail again. John’s world comes crashing down. Is this the end of his partnership with Honza Bear? Will he be removed from the dog program?

John’s head is numb and his stomach is about to revolt. He slumps down on the ground and fights back the tears. Honza sniffs his face and rubs his warm nose on John’s face. John pulls him tightly against his chest. He can’t lose Honza.

He stays there holding Honza in his arms for well over an hour. He watches the other dog teams come back from the problem with smiles of their faces. He wants to feel like that.

“Nolan, go see Master Sergeant Hathaway to receive your score,” said another handler.

John shuffles his feet as he moves slowly towards Hathaway who is the certification authority. His score means nothing if it isn’t a 95 or better. He already knows he failed.

“All right, Nolan. You guys have been solid all week. I’m giving you one more chance to successfully navigate this trial,” Hathaway says.

John and Military Working Dog HonzaJohn heart leaps as he nods his head. “Roger, Master Sergeant.”

He kneels down next to the bear as he unleashes him and says, “This is it, buddy. I need you, pal. I can’t lose you.”

Honza looks back at him with his lips caught in his bottom teeth. He leans back on his hind legs, stretches out his front and places his head between his front paws. His tail won’t stop wagging.

John swears that he is smiling at him. “Seek!”

Honza bolts out of his stance and dashes down the hallway of the barracks. He runs all the way to the end of the hall, sniffs the bottom of a door seam and drops his butt to the floor.

John hesitates for a minute.  “Seriously, Honza, you are on scent that quickly?” he thinks.  He knows this is it. They are passing orJohn and Military Working Dog Honza failing right here.

“He’s on it, Master Sergeant. Good boy, Honza. Good boy. Who’s my buddy, huh, Honza?”

As he is “paying” Honza, he prays that they aren’t wrong. John looks over at Hathaway whose stoic face relaxes, and a smile forms.

“Good job, Nolan. Good luck in Afghanistan.” He shakes John’s hand, pats Honza on the head, and walks away leaving John stunned. They have passed!

He looks down at Honza who has flipped over on his back and begun to grumble. John laughs as he flops to the ground and rubs the Bear’s belly. It’s the least he could do for his certified dog!

A month later, John and Honza are sweeping over the snow-covered mountains of Afghanistan in a UH-64 Blackhawk helicopter. There aren’t headed to a base camp though. They are headed to join a Special Forces team. The team is living amongst the people in an Afghan village. They will rely only on one another for protection.

John and Military Working Dog HonzaDo you think Honza Bear sensed John’s desperation?

Why would Honza do so well all week, flop at the end, and then redeem himself?

Has Honza Bear finally hit his stride? 

Click here for the next exciting chapter in this story! 

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Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 13th, 2012) Anax Retires!

Breaking news! Our hero, Military Working Dog Anax, has officially retired from the Army. You may remember that Anax lost his hind leg in Afghanistan.

His handler, best pal and now owner, Army Specialist Marc Whittaker has delivered Anax to his family in Texas. Anax will remain with Marc’s family until Marc returns permanently from Germany next fall.

Military Working Dog Anax

Even though Anax lost his leg fighting for the United States in Afghanistan he currently receives no medical benefits. Marc is financially responsible for all costs to include any bills incurred related to his injury on active duty. Imagine if our nation had a similar policy for our 2-legged service members. The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act will change this injustice.

Currently the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act has passed the House of Representatives. Use this link to learn more about the vote. The act goes to the Senate and we need your help!

Military Working Dog Anax

The act goes before the Senate next. Please, please click on this link and write your senators. Urge them to support this critical act. Our military dogs, dogs like Anax, need your help.

If you think the current policy is unjust please consider writing your senators to tell them so. The American Society for the Cruelty of Animals has set up a quick an easy way to contact your senators.

Military Working Dog Anax

Please follow these links to learn more about how Anax and Marc:

Part I Memories that Never Fade

Part II Then and Now

Part III The Struggle between MWD Anax & MWD Dark

Part IV Part IV Mark and Anax: The Struggle to Move On

In case you missed or want to revisit prior weeks. Here are the links.

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (June 6th, 2012) Guardians of the Night.

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 30th, 2012) SGT Rex Retires!

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 23th, 2012) Welcome Home Marines!

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