It’s something the “old timers” on Capitol Hill, and Senator John McCain, swore would never happen: retiring military dogs and transporting them back stateside courtesy of Uncle Sam. More than once such legislation has been blocked by people in Washington, but deep inside the $607 Billion bill for military spending signed by Barack Obama last week, are provisions to bring the dogs of war, veterans all, home at retirement:
“I was told by our political advisors, who are knee deep in this everyday, ‘Robin this isn’t going to happen we just want to set your expectations’ and I said ‘it’s gonna happen, we gotta make it happen,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the [American Humane Association]. “To be told by the old timers on the Hill that there’s no way in heck this is going to happen and to do it? Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you.”
The bi-partisan portion of the bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.). The language guarantees that military canines are to given a ride home on military aircraft, and that former military handlers have first crack at adopting their battle buddies. In addition, there are provisions for specialized care for the pooches related to war injuries. (These are veterans, after all.)
The American Humane Association brought home and reunited 21 dogs with their handlers from overseas last year. Many times, this reunion with a battle buddy helps the human soldier suffering from PTSD. Before now, it has been up to veterans, volunteers, and a non-profit to see to it that these brave dogs get the retirement with a beloved human companion that they deserve. One such human-canine hybrid duo is Sgt. Brent Grommet and his dog Matty who came home to live with him last year. To be modest, this news gave them something to REALLY be thankful for on Thanksgiving:
“To have him, a year later, be able to be part of this legislative victory just gave him such a sense of purpose, to be able to pay it forward to future handlers,” Ganzert said. “These gentlemen that we’ve had the pleasure of working with as advocates for them on the Hill, it’s a new mission for them. And that mission is to pay it forward to future handlers so they don’t have to go through the bureaucracy and the pain of being separated from a battle buddy.”
“So this has been a beautiful mission these guys have been on and to bring it to them on Thanksgiving was a day, really, of thanks just to be so utterly corny about it,” Ganzert said with a chuckle. “It’s about as corny as a Hallmark movie to have this happen on Thanksgiving-eve. What a blessing.”
And what a blessing to have passionate Americans take up the torch for military dogs of war who sniff bombs, and listen for trip wires, and work to rescue humans in battle. Without them, the casualty numbers could be so much worse. At this time, there are an estimated 2,500 military dogs working overseas. Most of them are German Shepherds, Labradors, and Belgian Malinois (these are the ones special forces use), but there are a number of other breeds and crosses that are suitable for military purposes.