Here’s the dictionary definition of a hero: “A person admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities, as achieved with altruistic intent. Typically a hero doesn’t boast about his or her achievements.”
This definition doesn’t mention that only humans can be heroes, but military working dogs and police dogs fit the description perfectly. Of course, few are aware of the extent of their heroism as they save lives in the U.S. and overseas daily. Unfortunately, when these 4-legged heroes finally retire, they get little support.
While, it’s true our country should arguably do more to assist retired military and law enforcement personnel, at least there are agencies and resources in place to help. Until recently, retired military and police dogs receive no such aid. The Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health) RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program will provide owners of retired military working dogs and retired police dogs a $300 debit card to be used for basic veterinary care. In addition, Zoetis has made $10,000 contributions to both the Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve and the National Police Dog Foundation.
After returning home following active duty in Afghanistan, Cpl. Matthew Foster, U.S. Marine Corps, never gave up on his goal to adopt his explosives detection dog, a black Labrador Retriever named Sgt. Mick. Foster, now honorably discharged, lives with Sgt. Mick in Aurora, CO. As Sgt. Mick lies contentedly by his side,
Foster explains how the Lab went about his job in the military. “As an IED detection dog, Mick would search for explosives, sweeping an area. I was right behind (him), then behind us was the remainder of the platoon,” says Foster. “Every day we depended on one another. We did this for nine months. One day, Mick lay down and stared. We knew there was explosive detected.” Foster pauses, to compose himself. “He saved my life, for sure, and probably the rest of the platoon — 20 other people. Doesn’t he deserve care as he ages?” he said.
Foster pauses again. “Mick means the world to me. I would lay down my life for him. And he did this for me, and would do it again. After what you go through to get your partner back home, I can’t imagine not being able to afford to care for him. It would crush me.” Diane Whetsel is founder and board chair of the non-profit Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve. The organization, named for Whetsel’s now deceased dog, promotes the welfare of dogs who’ve faithfully served (often in harm’s way) in wars, police work, crime prevention and rescue efforts through education and increasing public awareness. Sage served as a search-and-rescue dog in Iraq, and among other notable assignments, worked at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and helped search for lost people after Hurricane Katrina. Shortly after retiring,
Sage was diagnosed with two types of cancer, including lung cancer which may have been caused by his work. There was no financial safety net for Whetsel to treat Sage. “I felt our hero dogs deserve the best medical care money can buy. I didn’t have the money,” she recalls. “A friend began the Sage Fund to raise money for Sage, then we began the Sage Foundation after that. I don’t want to see the dogs who served our country so valiantly live or die based on the cost of veterinary care.”
“These now aging dogs protected our soldiers, and all of us,” says Dr. Sharon Campbell, senior manager of veterinary services at Zoetis. “They deserve to be pain-free, and they deserve to have medical conditions treated with the best of care.” For more information,o apply for the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program.
©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency