Last Wednesday, March 13th was National K9 Veterans Day. A day dedicated to honoring all the military and civil service dogs. These animals are national heroes that protect us at home and internationally.
During WWI, the United States had noticed how the Europeans used canines as guards, message carriers, and for other duties. So when the world was on the brink of its second world war, a program was created for breeding and training dogs for military use. The Dogs for Defense program was initiated by a private citizen named Mrs. Alene Erlanger. This program then led to the foundation of the U.S. Army K9 Corps on March 13, 1942 making dogs officially part of the military service. The 200 dogs first envisioned turned into more than 10,400.
Now, more than 2,500 dogs are serving in the military with about 700 stationed overseas. Over the decades, military K9s have comprised Border Patrol, Customs, Secret Service, Airport Service, FBI, Police, and other teams. When people think of military or police dogs, most think of German Shepherds, but there are two other popular breeds: the Labrador Retriever and the Belgian Malinois. These skilled dogs are trained to perform many services such as search, rescue, explosives detection, scout, patrol, and enemy subdue.
K9 Veterans Day was created by a Vietnam War veteran, K9 handler, and trainer named Joe White. The purpose of this day is to commemorate the original launch of the K9 Corps program and pay an annual tribute to honor these animals’ sacrifice and service. Not only are these K9s valued as essential members of their military units, but they also have retirement ceremonies, awards, medals, and memorial services. We want to make sure to have an appreciation for their service every day.