Preventing dog heatstroke

To emphasize the risk of dog heat stroke, this graphic demonstrates how quickly a car heats up inside at various outside temperatures.

Military working dog handlers will tell you that overheating is their greatest dog first aid concern. On this first day of summer, MWDTSA is honored to share the following safety information from Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, reprinted with permission of the author.

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Never leave a dog in a vehicle in the sun, even if the temperature is mild and the windows are open. In a matter of minutes, a K9 can become overheated while exercising, playing or just by being left in the heat with no water or shade. Heat exhaustion can quickly become a life-threatening heatstroke, which can cause organ failure and death.

Always provide access to fresh water and shade – especially in the heat of the day.

Obesity and pre-existing medical conditions put pets at much higher risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Puppies, elderly dogs, and dogs with dark-colored or long-haired coats are more at risk, and flat-faced breeds, including bulldogs and pugs, are more susceptible to overheating.

If you are concerned about a pet (or person) that is locked in a hot car, contact your local law enforcement. The Colorado legislature passed a law in 2017 that provides immunity from prosecution for civilians who break into a locked vehicle to rescue a dog, cat, or at-risk person.

​Signs of heat exhaustion

  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Heavy panting and rapid breathing
  • Excessive drooling that then turns to thick tenacious saliva
  • Bright red gums and tongue
  • Dry tacky gums and mucous membranes
  • Weakness or struggling to maintain balance
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Body temperature of 104 degrees or greater
  • Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Confusion or disorientation

Signs of dog heatstroke

  • White or blue gums
  • Labored, noisy breathing
  • Frantic panting or wheezing
  • Rapid heart rate and drooling
  • Uncontrollable urination and or defecation
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy or unwillingness to move
  • Lack of coordination
  • Unconsciousness

What to do if a dog is suffering from heatstroke

  • Move the animal to shade or a cooler environment
  • Provide cool, fresh drinking water
  • Cool the dog down with water or covered ice packs on the belly only
  • Do not force-feed water if the pet cannot drink freely on its own
  • Do not submerge the pet, this may cause further harm when temperature regulation is impaired
  • Do not cover, crate, or otherwise confine the pet
  • Even if your dog is responding well to cooling treatments, it is imperative that you contact (and go to) an emergency veterinarian

Memorial Day 2019: Remembering the ultimate sacrifice

Handler and military working dog stand before MWD memorial on Guam.
“25 Marine War Dogs gave their lives liberating Guam in 1944. They served as sentries, messengers, and scouts. They explored caves, and detected mines and booby traps.” U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John F. Looney [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Emails, Facebook posts, and retail store signs exclaim, “Happy Memorial Day!” At each one, I bristle and my mind travels back to a 1983 conversation with Moshe, a 15-year-old Israeli exchange student.

Moshe’s stay in the U.S. included the Memorial Day weekend, and he passionately spoke out against the celebratory atmosphere. “This is wrong,” he said. “Memorial Day isn’t about partying and shopping. It’s about remembering the sacrifice of those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms. It is supposed to be a solemn occasion. You don’t say, ‘Happy Memorial Day.’ You say, ‘Thank you.’”

Moshe’s words continue to resonate with me today. Ads announcing big Memorial Day blowout sales compete with media coverage of commemorative activities and veterans’ stories. Low-price promises and beer fests distract us from the meaning and intent of the day.

We, the volunteers of MWDTSA, encourage you to take time this weekend to reflect on the sacrifices of our nation’s two- and four-legged heroes. Visit a cemetery, study the grave markers, and place flags or flowers to say thank you. Watch a documentary, begin a biography, or read news articles about a fallen service member.

MWDTSA thanks handlers and MWDs, past and present, for your dedication to preserving our nation’s freedoms and protecting the United States of America. We feel enormous gratitude for your service.

“It takes a village”

This photo shows the Soda Pup "Heart on a String" rope toy, along with the front and back of a card we enclosed in each care package describing the collaboration with Dita the Hairmissile Dog. It takes a village to fill each care package.

We often say, “It takes a village” to fill our quarterly care packages. Four times a year, we send out approximately 200 large USPS Flat-Rate boxes, and we aim to fill them completely. Many thanks to the following Q1-2019 corporate donors…

Scout Troop 171 in Boulder, Colorado periodically sells coffee to raise money for backpacking trips and Scout camps. This year, they added an option for non-coffee drinkers—the opportunity to donate coffee for MWDTSA care packages.

Creative collaboration

This photo shows the three coffee blends MWDTSA included in Q1-2019 care packages.Sticks Coffee in Superior, Colorado also hosted a coffee fundraiser. As patrons streamed in from hockey tournaments, the cashiers asked, “Would you like to add a $10 donation to your purchase today to send coffee to a deployed military working dog handler?” Signs on the doors and at the register invited customers to take part in the drive.

Meanwhile, 822 miles away, Coffee.org of Fort Smith, Arkansas offered a stunning bulk purchase discount. This allowed donor dollars to stretch further to cover 100 percent of MWDTSA’s Q1-2019 coffee needs. We sent three small bags of coffee in each Q1 box, including a special blend that Coffee.org formulated specifically for MWDTSA. The label featured our “You and me” Q1 logo and the words “Reveille Blend: Just like the bugle, this coffee will wake you up!”

A neighborhood effort

This photo shows packets of Smokehouse Jerky Company Gourmet Brisket Beef Jerky.A post to the Oh-Oh-Two-Seven Facebook page, which serves zip codes 80027 and 80026, brought forth additional offers of help. Louisville Realty Associates (LRA) asked about our greatest Q1 needs. We had not yet secured Q1 jerky donations for handlers or dogs, so they took on that activity.

The same week LRA stepped forward, Smokehouse Jerky of California offered another generous bulk purchase discount. LRA, Nickerson Marketing, and Deep End Solutions pooled resources to fund the jerky purchase for handlers. Additionally, LRA made a personal introduction to a friend at Buckley Pet, a local dog treat manufacturer. Buckley Pet donated 200 bags of Skin & Coat Beef Jerky, enough to send one in every care package.

For the handlers…

This handsome FIFTY/FIFTY 20-ounce tumbler displays the Truckers for Troops logo.OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association) of Grain Valley, Missouri sponsors a “Truckers for Troops” fundraiser each year. Taking advantage of a generous discount from FIFTY/FIFTY, OOIDA purchased 200 coffee tumblers for our Q1-2019 boxes.

We stuffed these 20-ounce tumblers to the brim with donations from Juanita’s Pepitas, Perfetti Van Melle, Phillips Pet Food & Supplies, Picky Bars, Sweetwood Smokehouse, and VerMints.

Other handler surprises included dried apricots from Mariani Packing Company; Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds; Honey Stinger waffles; Cocomels from JJ’s Sweets, Inc.; cooling wipes from Duke Cannon; and magazines from 5280.

Each handler also received a t-shirt emblazed with “You and me, Malintine,” in honor of Valentine’s Day. We are grateful to Christian Print Shop, Inc. of Alpharetta, Georgia for their long-term support of MWDTSA with high-quality t-shirts. And to the five Kohl’s employees from the Louisville, Colorado store, who folded all 200 t-shirts into plastic bags with size labels!

The students of Jefferson Academy in Broomfield, Colorado created art to include in the care packages. This school has supported MWDTSA with art three times—Q4-2016, Q4-2017, and Q1-2019.

For the four-legged troops…

Woobamboo donated Large-Breed toothbrushes for the second year in a row.

A Petco Foundation grant, coupled with bulk purchase pricing from Prima Pets, enabled us to send a sturdy collapsible dog bowl in each care package.

Rex Specs hosted a donation drive in December to collect protective eyewear for our military working dog teams.

“Dita’s Donation Drop,” sponsored by Dita The Hairmissile, plus a matching program by SodaPup, yielded 200 Heart-on-a-String toys for our Q1-2019 boxes. And yes, these dogs do have our human hearts on a string.

Thanks to the annual KONGs for K9s drive, we included the KONG Extreme Tire in each care package. Numerous retailers and veterinary clinics help with this drive each year—including three that contributed to Q1-2019 care packages in other ways. Action-Packed Pup collected both tires and undercoat rakes. Kriser’s Natural Pet in Westminster, Colorado invited us to do an in-store event to collect tires and dog jerky.

A special shout-out to Chuck and Don’s Pet Food & Supplies (Longmont, Erie, and Arvada, Colorado). The Longmont store has hosted MWDTSA for in-store fundraising events for 30 straight months. They have taken part in the KONGs for K9s drive for three years. They have led our quarterly care package assembly twice. The managers of the Erie and Arvada stores, along with an Arvada team member, spearheaded our Q1-2019 packing event.

And last but not least…

Hats off to the Louisville (CO) Police Department for hosting our 2019 packing event and allowing us to make a temporary mess in the basement of the police station. We are grateful for your hospitality—two years in a row.

And to the United States Postal Service in Louisville, Colorado for spending a Sunday with us for the second year in a row. It was amazing to have you at the end of our packing line, and you worked tirelessly to get the boxes to the Post Office on a cold night, well after sunset.

Many thanks to all who made the Q1-2019 care packages possible, including a multitude of Amazon Wish List donors. UPS Store 1905 graciously received the many Amazon boxes and manufacturer donations, holding packages for us until we could pick them up. Nashville Wraps provided bags and ribbon for packaging donated candy.

Your contributions allow us to support both ends of the leash, and we are grateful.

Interested in helping with future care packages? Here are 14 ways to get involved, including a link to our Amazon Wish List. Or reach out to president@MWDTSA.org.

14 ways to support military working dog teams

This photo shows care packages items sent in Q1-2019 to support military working dog teams.

If you, a group, or your company would like to support military working dog teams, here are several ways to get involved. Pick something from the following list, or use these ideas as inspiration for a new endeavor. It takes a village to fill our quarterly care packages. We invite you to join us in supporting both ends of the leash.

1) Donate 200 of an item.

We try to make each quarter’s care packages relatively uniform, so that all recipients are getting the same dog toys, snacks, etc. This means we need 200 of any item we’re planning to send. Every quarter, we aim to include made-in-USA jerky, dog treats, human snacks, grooming products, and other supplies. If your company makes a product you think handlers or their dogs might like, let’s talk! If you are able to provide the full quantity of an item, we add you to our sponsor page (https://mwdtsa.org/sponsors/). We also highlight your involvement via our social media channels.

2) Provide a bulk-purchase discount.

If you are not able to outright donate 200 of a particular product, consider offering a bulk purchase discount. If MWDTSA can buy your product below wholesale cost, the difference between your discounted and wholesale price is tax-deductible. We provide a donor acknowledgement letter for your tax records.

3) Offer a matching program.

Customers buy one, and you throw in a second—so we end up with two care package items for the price of one.

4) Team together to sponsor a care package item.

Maybe you’re a real estate company or high-tech firm that doesn’t manufacture products, but you’d still like to help fill care packages. MWDTSA can match you with a bulk-purchase discount, enabling your organization’s donation dollars to have more purchase power.

5) Plan a fundraiser.

In the past, volunteers have coordinated golf tournaments, 5Ks, nail trimming events, Chick-fil-A fundraising nights, and other creative activities—all to raise money for MWDTSA care packages. Destination Imagination teams, Scout troops, Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates, coffee shops, breweries, and others looking for a service opportunity can make a big impact for MWDTSA.

6) Host a toy/treat drive.

If you own a retail store, veterinary clinic, or grooming salon, you can order in one of our wish-list products, place it at the register, and ask clients, “Would you like to add a treat for a military working dog to your purchase today? We’re collecting care package items for dogs deployed in global combat zones.” Customers leave their donation with you, and at the end of the drive, MWDTSA makes arrangements to get the donated products to our packing location.

7) Make an introduction.

Maybe your neighbor’s company produces an amazing snack item. We can equip you to approach your friend with a donation request. Your personal introduction can pave the way for important new partnerships and collaborations.

8) Add MWDTSA as an option on your order form.

If your kids are selling coffee or candy to raise money for their school or sports teams, they probably encounter the word “no” quite a bit. What if they could add this to their spiel: “If you are not a coffee consumer, you can also support our school/team by purchasing coffee to donate to a deployed military working dog handler.”

9) Adopt a care package.

Each care package involves approximately $150 in products and postage. Manufacturers donate many of the items we include. However, every quarter, we need assistance to cover t-shirts, tactical patches, postage, and other items. You can “adopt” a package by making a $75 donation via PayPal to fill these needs. This option includes the following benefits for donors:

  1. We will include a card in the care package, acknowledging who sponsored the box.
  2. You can dedicate the box. For example, “We are sending this care package in honor of Joe Sample, who served in World War II.”

This is a fun option for a Scout troop, school group, company, or family that wants to support military working dog teams. For more information, contact president@mwdtsa.org.

10) Collect children’s art.

A colorful painting of a dog provides cheer for handlers. Each quarter, we need at least 200 pieces of children’s art. Contact president@mwdtsa.org for criteria regarding size, subject matter, and medium.

11) Write letters of encouragement.

No one knows about deployments better than veterans who have served in global combat zones. Think back to your time overseas. Are there funny stories you can share? Advice you wish you had known earlier? Poems that boosted your morale? We’re looking for veterans groups who would like to write letters so that every care package we send has a personal communication in it.

12) Join Amazon Smile.

If you regularly shop on Amazon for your business or home, Amazon Smile donates a portion of your purchase price to the nonprofit of your choice. Choose Military Working Dog Team Support Association, and every purchase you make will help support military working dog teams.

13) Visit our Amazon Wish List.

Each quarter, and for special occasions such as National K9 Veterans Day, we maintain a registry of products we plan to include in upcoming care packages. You simply purchase one or more items, and Amazon sends them directly to our packing coordinator. Each wish list donation is tax deductible.

14) Donate through PayPal.

To send one care package requires nearly $18 in postage, and we send about 200 boxes per quarter. Some individuals and businesses contribute dollars to cover the postage bill.

Thank you for helping us support both ends of the leash!

Photo credit: Alex Sierra, Kohl’s, Louisville, CO captured this image of MWDTSA’s Q1-2019 care package contents. Alex and four colleagues from Kohl’s helped with pre-packing activities such as folding 200 t-shirts and inserting them in plastic sleeves.

Q1-2019: You and me, Malintine

Military working dog wearing Rex Specs sits beside Q1-2019 care package contents.

MWDTSA formally acknowledged Valentine’s Day with its Q1-2019 care packages. It’s been over 10 years since we’ve featured hearts and romance in our boxes. While “romance” might be too strong a word, we set out to honor the timeless bond between handler and dog. It’s a special kind of love worth celebrating.

We fiddled with a few different ideas. Shep-heart. Love-rador. But we decided “You and me, Malintine” has a ring to it. Knowing that some handlers’ partners are not Malinois, we stopped at “You and me” for the tactical patches.

Pictures are starting to roll in, and this is one of our favorite so far! 🙂

p.s. If you’d like to contribute to Q2 care packages, visit MWDTSA’s Amazon wish list or our web site. Thanks for helping us support both ends of the leash.

Rex Specs co-founder speaks on dog eye care

This photo features a Coast Guard K9 wearing dog eye protection. Superimposed on the photo is a message from Rex Spec about the donation drive.

Rex Specs dog goggles are high-quality protective eyewear for the active and working dog. They typically retail for $80, but this holiday season, the company is hosting a donation drive for the Military Working Dog Team Support Association (MWDTSA). If you donate $40, Rex Specs will work with MWDTSA to deliver protective eyewear for a military working dog deployed in a global combat zone.

This year, we have set the goal to include Rex Specs in all 200 Q1-2019 care packages that MWDTSA will ship out in February. These goggles shield the eyes of MWDs from helicopter rotor wash, desert sand storms, winter blizzards, and other environmental hazards. With the holidays coming up, it’s a great way to honor our nation’s four-legged heroes.

MWDTSA had the opportunity to talk with Rex Specs co-founder, Jesse Emilo, to discuss the need for K9 eye protection.

Q: In what situations can dogs benefit from protective eyewear?

This photo shows two dogs on a hiking trail, wearing Rex Specs dog eye care goggles. The tinted lenses shield their eyes from the intense sun.
Photo credit: Drew Smith

A: In any situation where humans wear eye protection, it’s important to consider whether a dog also needs eye protection.

UV rays, dust, dirt, debris—and even grass, seeds, and sticks—pose potential hazards for dogs. Canines living at high altitude and in sunny environments experience intense and prolonged UV exposure that can harm their eyes. In some cases, time in the sun can aggravate existing medical conditions such as iris atrophy or pannus. Goggles provide UV protection so that a dog’s time outdoors does not need to be limited or restricted.

Dogs that are deployed from helicopters (MWDs, Police K9s, Search and Rescue, etc.) or that live and work in areas with lots of particulates use goggles to help protect from foreign objects getting into the eye.

There are dogs that accompany their handlers in unique situations and environments, such as chemistry labs or welding shops, where eye protection is worn by all—so why not the dog? Many dogs wear goggles for protection while sticking their head out the car window or while riding in a motorcycle sidecar.

Whether your dog’s eyes are healthy or they suffer from an eye disease, many people choose to protect their four-legged companion’s eyes before an injury occurs.

Working dogs such as MWDs, hunting dogs, and other highly trained K9s have hundreds or thousands of hours of training. An eye injury could end their career. Rex Specs act as insurance to protect your partner from eye harm.

Q: What are the risks dogs (and their owners) face if a dog does not wear protective goggles?

This photo shows a working dog on leash, wearing Rex Specs goggles.
Rex Specs dog goggles are designed tough for the working dog. Features include a low-profile strap system for custom fit and harness integration, as well as a durable frame that stands up to rugged use. Spherical ANSI-rated UV400 lenses provide a full field of view and impact protection. (Photo courtesy of Rex Specs)

A: Some dogs have eye conditions that are genetically inherited, and some face on-the-job or other environmental hazards. The risks associated with not wearing goggles depend on the circumstances.

One of our dogs, Yaz, lacks pigment around the eye, resulting in severe sunburn when outside all day. Her eye would get red and puffy for a few days after being in the sun for too long. Sometimes, she would even develop a scab on her eyelid. At the age of 8, she needed entropion surgery on the eye.

The surgery was costly, and we felt badly about bringing her on all-day outdoor adventures without protecting her eyes—before and especially after surgery. Now that we have Rex Specs, we can bring her along on the boat or out in the sun for a long day, with confidence that she’s O.K.

Our other dog, Tuckerman, was diagnosed with pannus at the age of 2. It’s an autoimmune condition that affects the cornea (the clear) part of the eye. If left untreated, it eventually can scar the eye so badly that it causes vision impairment or blindness. This condition can worsen with UV exposure.

One treatment for pannus is daily steroid drops. This prescription is not cheap when accumulated over a lifetime. Goggles are a less expensive alternative. Tuckerman still has pannus, but at the age of 9, he’s doing well. With his Rex Specs, we feel good about bringing him on long runs and adventures, knowing he’s protected from UV rays.

Q: Some dogs swipe their eye area with a paw in an effort to remove an irritant. What other signals/symptoms should dog owners watch for that might indicate an eye injury or irritation?

A: Wiping or pawing at the eye should definitely trigger owners to take a closer look at their dog’s eyes. Other signs of possible irritation include discharge, redness, or swelling. If you suspect something is wrong with your dog’s eye, document the issue, take photos, and check it frequently. If it’s becoming worse or not improving, consult your veterinarian. Eyes are sensitive and delicate. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so call your vet if you have any questions or concerns. Treating an injury early can help keep the pain down, expedite the healing time, and minimize the cost associated with the injury.

Q: Are there any basic first aid/home care tips that owners should know when caring for their dogs’ eyes? In addition to goggles, are there any particular dog eye care supplies owners should always have on hand?

We recommend giving your dogs an overall checkup quite often, and particularly after they are exposed to harsh environments or show signs of possible injury. Check their entire body, not just their eyes. Bird-hunting dogs, for example, often run through tall grass and thorny weeds. Look closely at their paws, bodies, faces, and eyes to make sure there are no scratches, or embedded debris or grass seeds. One thing that’s nice to have on hand is saline solution, which can be used to rinse or flush a dog’s eye.

Q: What are common mistakes dog owners make when caring for their dogs’ eyes, and what should owners do instead?

A: The most common mistake might be not giving your dog’s eyes the attention they deserve. Most medical conditions get worse over time and are easy to miss if you’re not keeping an EYE on your four-legged companion. We have a lot of customers who say, “If I had only known earlier,” when they find out about a condition or injury.

Regularly check your dog’s eyes, ears, paws, nails, and body. If you see something different or something that has changed, take note and keep track of it. The more information and awareness you have from the start, the better your vet might be able to treat an injury or symptom. Also, ask your vet to examine your dog’s eyes during annual checkups or if you suspect something is wrong. Nobody knows your dog as well as you do—trust your instinct if you feel something is off.

MWDTSA is grateful for Rex Specs’ ongoing support of our nation’s military working dogs. We thank you, our readers, for supporting this year’s Rex Specs drive. These goggles protect MWDs’ eyes from harsh elements, so they can work more comfortably and safely. Let’s set a record and send a spectacular number of Rex Specs to these intrepid four-legged service members. Here’s how.

Fort Huachuca: kennel visit recap

This photo shows a Fort Huachuca kennel sign that lists military working dogs who have crossed the rainbow bridge.
With this prominent sign, Fort Huachuca honors military working dogs that have crossed the rainbow bridge. (Photos by Linda Costa-Bryan)

Don’t mess with a military working dog. A rabid raccoon learned this the hard way when it ventured into a kennel at Fort Huachuca. The dog quickly dispatched the invader and thankfully did not contract rabies. The incursion, however, led to the installation of sturdy red iron gates to deter wild critters from entering.

MWDTSA heard this and other stories during a recent visit to Fort Huachuca. Our nonprofit travels to stateside kennels to provide moral support and say thanks to military working dog teams. These handlers and dogs work tirelessly in a variety of roles, including explosives detection, drug detection, and patrol. They face challenges ranging from extreme weather to snakes (including one killed in the area that morning).

This photo shows the Fort Huachuca handlers and MWDTSA volunteer Linda Costa-Bryan standing behind a picnic table loaded with MWDTSA gifts, including backpacks, FIFTY/FIFTY bottles, t-shirts, and more.
Fort Huachuca handlers and MWDTSA volunteer Linda Costa-Bryan stand with MWDTSA kennel gifts. Pictured left to right (back row): SSG Razo, SSG Andrews, SPC Fletcher, and PFC Jackson. Front row: SPC Harmon, SFC Peppersack, and Costa-Bryan.

MWDTSA volunteers Linda Costa-Bryan, Scott Bryan and Bill Cummings arrived at the base with breakfast and gifts. Donors’ generous financial contributions made all of this possible. Handlers enjoyed coffee, juice, fruit, assorted pasties, and donuts. Volunteers presented a new coffee maker and bags of Dunkin Donuts coffee. Handlers received MWDTSA t-shirts, blender bottles for protein drinks, MWDTSA patches, and Fifty/Fifty bottles.

For the dogs, MWDTSA delivered KONG Classics, KONG Squeezz sticks, dog bandanas, collapsible dog bowls, and Planet Dog Orbee footballs. Thanks to the steadfast support of Planet Dog, each MWD also received a Planet Dog Orbee baseball. These toys are perennial favorites among MWDs! KennelSol graciously provided a bottle of kennel disinfectant for this visit.

Part of Arizona history

While MWDTSA’s main goal is celebrating the handlers and their four-legged comrades, our volunteers also learn a great deal about training, local challenges, deployments, and military history. A kennel visit typically includes skill demonstrations and a facilities tour, along with a chance for Q&A.

Our volunteers learned the Army originally established Camp Huachuca in 1877 to “offer protection to settlers and travel routes in southeastern Arizona.”1 It was re-designated as a fort in 1882.

Swapping stories

MWDTSA volunteer Cummings of Marana, Arizona served as a USAF Vietnam-era Sentry Dog Handler. He and the Fort Huachuca handlers discussed how dogs’ roles in the military have shifted over time as missions have changed. “Today’s dogs do so much more,” he noted.

This photo shows MWD Roxie, mid-jump, jaw clamped on the arm of PFC Jackson's bite suit.
PFC Jackson and MWD Roxie perform a training demonstration for MWDTSA volunteers.

Linda Costa-Bryan remarked that she had never seen artificial turf in a kennel training yard. This led to a discussion of the hot climate. Fort Huachuca handlers work with their dogs early in the morning, because the sunbaked terrain can scorch a dog’s paws in the afternoon heat.

Anyone who has visited a military kennel can attest to the wisdom of ear protection. When visitors enter, the whole kennel often erupts in a cacophony of ferocious barking. Cinderblock walls and cement floors amplify the volume. So, MWDTSA volunteers were surprised at the (relative) quiet of Fort Huachuca’s kennel. “That’s because we just fed the dogs,” explained SFC Mathew Peppersack.

During the visit, two handlers mentioned they had received MWDTSA care packages during previous deployments. Both had been surprised to get boxes and said it felt nice to be remembered while in a combat zone, away from their friends and family.

MWDTSA thanks you, our generous donors, for making these care packages and stateside kennel visits possible. We are grateful for your support!

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It takes a village to fill our quarterly care packages and fund our stateside kennel visits. To learn how you can help, visit https://mwdtsa.org/donate/. Thank you!

1. http://huachuca-www.army.mil/pages/history.html

K9s For Warriors: Aiding re-entry to civilian life

This photo shows four K9s For Warriors service dogs walking on-leash with their two-legged buddies during a training activity.
The Military Working Dog Team Support Association (MWDTSA) supports current and former military dog handlers in a variety of ways—including pointing them to healing resources such as K9s For Warriors. Above: Public access classes take warriors out in public with their dogs—to Costco, to the Jacksonville Zoo, to downtown St. Augustine, or a restaurant. (Photo courtesy of https://www.k9sforwarriors.org/)

by Bridget Cassidy and Scott Smith

The nonprofit K9s For Warriors has been pairing rescue dogs with traumatized soldiers since 2011. These service dogs perform tasks to quiet the symptoms of war trauma.

“The skillsets our dogs learn help these warriors with anxiety, isolation, depression, and nightmares, so they can function again in public.” says Shari Duval, the organization’s founder. “These dogs are prescriptions on four legs.”

The PTSD epidemic

According to a recent Rand Corporation report, 2.77 million service members have served on 5.4 million deployments since 9/11. Around 225,000 Army soldiers have deployed three times or more.

The Department of Defense reports approximately 173,000 active-duty service members received PTSD diagnoses in the military health system between 2000 and September 2017. Eighty percent of these diagnoses followed deployments of 30 days or more.

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental condition that can develop after a person experiences a severe traumatic event such as warfare or sexual assault. Symptoms can include depression, night terrors, social embarrassment resulting in isolation, and more. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) notes that it is common to have upsetting memories, increased anxiety, or trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. However, if these reactions persist or worsen, an individual may have PTSD requiring medical care.

Traditional treatments with medications and talk therapy help some soldiers but not all. A recent Purdue University study found that PTSD symptoms were significantly lower in veterans with service dogs.

National Institutes of Health is funding a large-scale study on the efficacy of service dogs as a complementary treatment of PTSD symptoms in military members and veterans. The results will be available in 2019.

Solving two challenges

Rather than tackling just one challenge—providing support for soldiers with PTSD—K9s For Warriors is addressing a second crisis, too. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 670,000 dogs are euthanized each year in the United States.

K9s for Warriors is rescuing these shelter animals, providing extensive training, and matching them with soldiers who are seeking support. It takes K9s For Warriors six months to train a dog. They currently train a total of 120 dogs per year. They rescue most breeds except full-bred Pitbulls, Dobermans, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, or Dalmatians due to insurance restrictions or state sanctions.

“K9s For Warriors sees two battles: fighting the past of the dog and fighting the past of the warrior. We’re saving two lives here,” says Brett Simon, war veteran with PTSD, former K9 police officer, and founder Shari Duval’s son.

PAWS Act of 2017

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members Act of 2017 got the VA on board with service dogs helping veterans. According to Congress.gov, “this bill directs the VA to carry out a five-year pilot program under which it provides grants to eligible nonprofit organizations to provide service dogs to veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after completing other evidence-based treatment.”

The K9s For Warriors program trains rescue or shelter dogs to perform four specific tasks: averting panic attacks, waking warriors from nightmares, creating personal space comfort zones in public situations by standing in front of the veteran (barrier), and reminding warriors to take their medications.

Dogs also learn two other commands: brace and cover. Many warriors suffer physical disabilities, too. So, the brace command prepares the dog to assist the warrior with standing, sitting or kneeling. The cover command is used to cover the warrior’s back.

Many soldiers with PTSD do not like people coming up from behind them. In the field, soldiers say to one another, “I got your back” or “I got your 6.” The cover command does just that. The service dog literally becomes the warrior’s sixth sense, by sitting and facing the opposite way the warrior is facing. When someone approaches from behind, the dog wags its tail.

 

Tiffany Baker kneels with her service dog Buddy. K9s for Warriors paired Baker and Buddy, and this heart-warming photo shows the bond between them.
K9s for Warriors paired Tiffany Baker and service dog Buddy. Baker, an Army National Guard soldier, received significant injuries in an IED explosion while deployed in Afghanistan. Before being rescued, Buddy was found tied to a tree without any food or water. (Photo courtesy of https://www.consumersadvocate.org/)

Overcoming isolation

According to Moira Smith of the ASPCA, service animals can also boost the handler’s social and emotional life. They provide safety and autonomy in public. “The dog acts as a bridge for social interaction,” says Smith. She explains that most Americans can’t relate to war experiences. However, they are familiar with taking care of a dog as a pet. “It also adds another dimension to their identity.”

As of October 2018, the K9s For Warriors program has rescued 940 dogs and 489 military service members, with an astounding 99% program success rate.

To learn more about K9s For Warriors, ongoing research, and stories of soldiers and their dogs, check out this recent full-length article.

**************

Soldier, take me from this shelter’s cage.
Give me back my life. In return, I’ll cover your back.
I’ll be your canine warrior, your sixth sense.
I’ll stand guard into the night and chase the demons away,
the uninvited, cloaked in night sweats and darkness.

I will help you open your cage of solitude
then walk tall by your side into the light of day.
Together, our faith will rise as tall as your soldier’s pride.
We are now family in this post-911 world.
Because together, we stand.

—Bridget Cassidy

 

 

 

 

 

KONGs for K9s: How pet stores and veterinary clinics can take part

This image features the KONGs for K9s logo, MWDTSA logo, and the two KONG toys that participating retailers are collecting in this year's drive. One is a KONG Extreme Tire. The other is a throw-tug toy.

The annual KONGs for K9s drive kicked off on August 1 and will continue through December 31, 2018. It’s a collaboration between MWDTSA and KONG Company. The matching program helps us provide KONG toys to military working dog teams deployed in global combat zones.

Here’s how the KONGs for K9s program works…

Participation is easy:

  1. Pet stores, clinics, and other dog-loving enterprises pick a month or more to take part. You collect one or both of the specific KONG toys shown in the photo above: https://www.kongcompany.com/products/for-dogs/rubber-toys/extreme-rubber-toys/kong-tires/ and/or https://www.kongcompany.com/products/for-dogs/rubber-toys/interactive-rubber-toys/tails/.
  2. MWDTSA will provide you with posters for your store, describing the initiative.
  3. You order in a supply of the toy and create a display to draw customers’ attention to the matching program. Some retailers place the display by the register and ask every customer, “Would you like to donate a KONG to a military working dog deployed in a global combat zone?” This active approach often results in more donations.
  4. Your patrons purchase the KONGs at regular retail price (or whatever price you set) and leave them with you at the register. Some stores set up visible donation bins so that customers can see the number of donated toys. Other stores tuck the donated KONGs in a back room.
  5. At the end of the drive, MWDTSA will pick up the donated KONGs from your store, if we have a volunteer in your local area. If we don’t have a volunteer near your store, we will provide shipping instructions on how to get them to us.

Once we receive your toys, we document the quantity and notify KONG. For each toy donated by your customers, KONG is matching with a second toy.

Calling all dog-loving businesses

There’s still time to sign up for 2018. Just contact president@MWDTSA.org if you’d like to take part. Indicate the name and address of your organization. Also, specify which month works best for your KONG donation drive, and which toy above you’d like to collect. We will get the posters to you right away.

While most KONGs for K9s participants are pet-related businesses, that’s not a requirement. In 2017, our largest KONG total came from Veterans United Craft Brewery. We also received KONGS from CrossFit Invasion, a fitness studio in New York!

Thanks for your interest and support!

You rock, MWDTSA Q2 corporate sponsors!

Photo of deployed military working dog next to care package contents from corporate sponsors.

MWDTSA could not send quarterly care packages to military working dog teams without the help of generous corporate sponsors and donors. Our Q2 boxes, which arrived in time for Independence Day, contained goodies from the 29 organizations listed at the end of this post, many of them veteran-owned. Please visit their web sites and explore their products.

We also extend a heartfelt thanks to the dozens of individual donors and Amazon Wish List participants, whose contributions rounded out each box. We are grateful for your support!

If pictures are worth a thousand words, tail wags are worth 10,000. We hope you enjoy these photos, submitted by Q2 care package recipients…

Q2 photo gallery

MWD is laying on a cot, wearing his handler's hat and posing with care package contents.Malinois looks up at the camera, sitting in front of a chair where care package contents are displayed.

MWD with expressive eyes and one ear flopped forward sits on the floor next to care package contents.Care package contents line a kitchen counter. MWD sits on the floor in front of the counter staring intently at the camera.

Care package contents sit on a sand bag in the foreground. Three handlers and their MWDs stand in the background modeling the 'Merica-themed MWDTSA t-shirts and MWDTSA athletic shorts that were included in the Q2-2019 care packages.
Each care package contained a t-shirt and athletic shorts for the handler, but in this photo, a military working dog is modeling the t-shirt and shorts. Hilarious!

An MWD sits alert on the floor next to a handler's bed. On the bed, care package contents are carefully laid out in front of the box they arrived in.

 

Q2 corporate sponsors and donors

 

For more information on how you can become a MWDTSA corporate sponsor or donor, email president@mwdtsa.org. Thank you for your interest in our mission!