- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Two career MWDs, both at the ripe old age of eight, recently traded in their military leashes for the comforts of civilian life. Brit, a German shepherd, was formerly a "patrol narcotics detection dog for a military police unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington." Bubba (pictured), a chocolate lab with one tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan behind him, was a bomb-sniffing dog for the Army.
Bubba’s last tour in Afghanistan was apparently cut short when the 80-pound dog took a bad tumble, falling through a canvas roof. But his new owners, the Van Fleets, report that Bubba’s wounded leg doesn’t keep him from enjoying his new home or from taking measures to keep his new family safe. The couple, who lives in Trumansburg, NY, say that Bubba "will case the perimeter" of their home whenever he’s outside and "insists on inspecting whatever object in one’s hands."
Brit on the other hand, is continuing to offer his services to those in the military but in a rather different capacity. Along with his new owners, the Russells of Fayetteville, NC, Brit is making the rounds at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg as a therapy dog, having taken therapy-training classes in order to assist wounded veterans. He’s only made a handful of visits so far, but his presence already seems to be making an impact.
"The boy is a traffic stop," [his owner, Russell, who accompanies Brit on these visits] says. "Everyone stops to say hello or give him a hug."… On several occasions, those soldiers have broken down in tears while hugging Brit and have thanked him for the service of military working dogs overseas…."They tell me ‘When the dogs come, it makes our day.’"
Canine news of interest: The practical use of the canine nose seems without limits. This week I came across three very interesting articles about sniffer dogs being used to detect some pretty unexpected…things. In Britain dogs are helping authorities uncover counterfeit condoms, and in California dogs are being employed to track down fox droppings in an effort to preserve the endangered San Joaquin kit fox. They’re also using dogs to sniff out fox dens in Queensland, Australia, though in this case it’s to cull the population, not save it. Who knew?
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Atria Books in August 2013.