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Man’s best friend in War and Peace

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March 15, 2012 by Linda Ford

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I’m borrowing this information from a piece by Maria Goodavage in the Feb. 25 Wall Street Journal. Horses and dogs have long been used in battle with soldiers. It is reported that during the Vietnam War, the military sent recruiters to bases to buy dogs from neighboring communities. In all, about 3,800 dogs served in Vietnam.

When they returned to the U.S., many of them went to Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith. And although they were de-ticked before returning, many of these dogs were carrying a tick-borne disease called Ehrlichia.

I just found out the other day that the Ehrlichia we have in our area is called Ehrlichia chaffeensie in honor of Fort Chaffee. Of all the dogs I test in my clinic, 80 percent of dogs over six years of age are positive for this disease. And I’m now finding it in larger percentages in much younger dogs as well.

Dogs have been used in battle for attack, protection and as sentries. Many have served as trackers, messengers, sled dogs and deliverers of first aid and medicine. They are often a comfort to the wounded and stressed soldiers. There was a pit bull dog in WW1 known as Sgt. Stubby who comforted the wounded, warned of impending gas attack so that soldiers could don their gas masks and even bit a German infiltrator who was then captured. Sgt. Stubby was decorated with many medals and pins.​

Military dogs in Afghanistan were credited with finding more than 12,500 pounds of explosives in 2010.  It would be impossible to know how many soldiers lives were saved during this time just due to their efforts. These dogs serve at considerable risk. Seventeen handlers have been killed in action since 2001. Numerous dogs have also been killed in action.

Today, most of the U.S. warrior dogs come from Europe, where there is a long tradition of institutions such as the Royal Dutch Police Dog Association. Devoted amateur dog breeders raise and train dogs in police-like work. Our military pays an estimated $3,000 to $4,500 a piece for worthy trained dogs.

 “A few make it to the elite ranks of Special Operations. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was part of the SEAL Team Six raid that led to the demise of Osama bin Laden. Much about Cairo, and the Special Ops dogs, remains a mystery, as one former veterinary technician at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, discovered a few years ago. When an Army ​​Special Forces dog came in for treatment, the staff skipped the usual paperwork. When the tech asked about some routine forms, the dogs handler said the dog was never here.” — from the book“Soldier Dogs” by Goodavage, to be published March 15 by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA)

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