Tomorrow is Veterans Day, when we honor the service and sacrifice of military veterans, a tradition going back to Armistice Day, November 11, 1919. With our country involved in protracted wars on two fronts it is indeed a poignant day. Among the veterans we honor are military dogs, from sentries in Vietnam to explosives detection dogs in Iraq. Dogs have served in the U.S. military since World War I, but by 2010 there were nearly 3,000 in service, many of them deployed in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Like their handlers and their fellow soldiers, these K9s work hard, contribute much, and suffer injury, trauma and sometimes death.
I’ve been reading Nicole Arbelo’s book K9 Heroes: Together We Protect, Defend And Conquer As One. For Arbelo, who teaches at a high school for the deaf and hard of hearing in the Bay Area, the book is obviously a labor of love. Her interest became a passion, when she was researching the role of dogs in the military and read about Sgt. Adam Cann, a K9 handler and trainer from her hometown, who had been killed by a suicide bomber while working security in Ramadi.
When she discovered his partner, a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd named Bruno, survived, she tracked down his new handler. Their story and his encouragement inspired her to “adopt” other handlers, send care packages, develop friendships, reach out and collect stories of war dogs and their handlers. These first-person reports—unvarnished, proud, patriotic, gritty and funny—provide a great introduction to this elite fraternity.
► Follow Nicole Arbelo on Facebook.
► Check out the Military Working Dog Memorial.