Q : Can you give us a brief backstory on why you started USWDA?
A: Back in 1998 I received an email from a dog Handler who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War. He was going to be displaying a small War Dog Exhibit at the Philadelphia Dog Shows and invited me to stop by.
On arriving at the dog show I found out that he had sent invitations to a number of dog handlers who served in Vietnam. After spending the day at the dog show five of us dog handlers became friends and decided to create our own War Dog Exhibit, so that people would understand what these War Dogs did for us in Vietnam and what they were doing for the military at that period of time.
The response was so great that we decided to establish the first official State War Dog Memorial in the State of New Jersey. We applied to be a nonprofit organization in 1999. In November of 2000 we officially became a nonprofit 501 c 19 organizations. We started to fund raise for the U.S. War Dog Memorial for the State of New Jersey, which was dedicated on June 10, 2006 at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, in Holmdel, New Jersey.
Q: Can you tell us about your own MWD and your experience as a handler?
A: I met my dog Stormy when she was 18 months old. She was donated to the Military by a family in the Midwest to be a Military Working Dog. After our training together we were deployed to Vietnam. On our very first patrol, Stormy saved my life and the lives of the Marines who were following us. Stormy alerted to our right flank and as I started to kneel down by Stormy’s side a sniper in the trees fired at me. Luckily, Stormy alerting to the sniper in the trees to our right saved my life. The bullet passed over the top of my head.
Q: What did the gear look like while you were in service?
A: The dog gear that we had back in the 1960’s was not very good. It was the same type of gear that was used in WWII and Korean War. Hard leather leashes, collars, harnesses and muzzles.
Q: How has MWD gear improved over the years?
A: Today’s MWD gear has improved in many ways- going from the hard leather of the past, to high tech nylon, with velcro. Where in the past there were no alternative MWD gear, today there are a variety of harnesses, collars, muzzles, leashes and other types of dog gear. One large plus for today’s MWD’s are the high tech Cooling Vests and cooling collars to keep the MWD’s cool during the summer months.
Q: How long does the average MWD serve?
A: MWD’s on average serve 6 to 8 years in the Military.
Q: What kind of special training do they receive?
A: Today’s training of Military Working Dogs could take up to two years. First the dog is evaluated to make sure the dog is suitable for Military Training. Then, the dog goes through phases of training. First is Basic Obedience. Second is Advanced Basic Obedience. After, the dog will be trained in its specialty area of training- Explosive Detection or Narcotics. Once training is completed the dog will be assigned to a permanent duty station.
During the dog’s service in the Military, they will continue to train with the their handler in their specialty area.
Q: Which products do MWDs overseas need the most?
A: In the Summer months- Cooling Dog Gear. 30” Retractable leashes and Large Kong Toys are also needed to name a few.
Q: About how many dogs are currently serving overseas?
Q: What is the most common disability/need of retired MWDs?
A: Most of the Military Working Dogs are retired due to health issues, so they will be on medications for the rest of their lives. Some of the health issues that we have seen over the years are related to skin ailments.
Q: Can anyone adopt a retired MWD?
A: Yes! But the Military Working Dog’s Handler has the first option to adopt his or her dog. Law Enforcement personnel come next and then any individual or family that has the means to take of a Retired Military Working Dog.
Q: What is your advice for anyone looking to adopt a retired MWD?
A: Keep in mind these retired Military Working Dogs are exactly what they are called- “WORKING DOGS”. They need to be walked, they need be able to run and they need attention and lots of love!