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How To Lend a Helping Paw to Dogs Returning from War

Support our troops. This was exactly the duty of Charlie the Working Military Dog when he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He worked with his handler to detect drugs and bombs and intimidate prisoners. Less controversially, Charlie also acted as a sentry, tracker, Search and rescue, scout and mascot. Charlie’s handler has moved on to work with another Working Military Dog, or perhaps has even been killed. It is time for Charlie to come home to the states, and face the world alone.

Prior to the year 2000, he would have been euthanized, rather than brought home, but thankfully, a new law was passed that allowed Charlie to come back to the states retired, living as a civilian dog. Less fortunately, many retired Military Dogs end up in shelters, only to be euthanized anyway. Indeed you are likely thinking this is unfair, because Charlie has saved so many lives, and deserves to have a good one himself. And you are correct. Don’t despair, there are things you can do to support our canine members of Military who have served their country faithfully and proudly.

Retired Military Dogs as Therapy Dogs
Charlie could come home and become part of several programs that pair up retired Military Dogs with returning soldiers with PTSD. Charlie would provide therapy, companionship, and security to his new owner, therefore helping him or her heal.

These programs are particularly effective because there would be a sense of camaraderie between the dogs and his new owner who is also a Vet like Charlie. Old soldiers who were brothers in arms can become brothers in healing and in life. Charlie would be a comrade to his new owner; they would have seen the same battles and felt the same losses during combat. Charlie and his newfound best friend would stumble together through the difficulty of returning from war, and eventually, teach each other how to live again.

If you are a veteran, you can sign up for one of these programs and adopt your very own Charlie. While those who aren’t Vets are restricted from being able to adopt a retired military dog, you can always volunteer your time or donations to the organizations that make it possible. One such organization, called “Operation Baghdad Pup,” even works to pair up dogs and soldiers while they are still abroad so that they can return home together having already bonded. Their motto is, “No buddy gets left behind.”

Some dogs, like soldiers have a hard time coming home and adapting to civilian life. In fact, there are 25 to 30 dogs returning from war who are officially diagnosed with PTSD each year and receive treatment. Those who receive treatment are expected to return to active duty once they are healed. One quarter return to their same job and one quarter to a different one. One quarter are considered retired and sent to live in new homes. One quarter continue treatment. It is unknown at this time what happens to dogs whose treatment is unsuccessful.

There are also plenty of dogs who have PTSD symptoms but, like people, can go undiagnosed. This may be the case for poor Charlie – and this is the risk of adopting a retired Military Dog.

Adopting a Retired Military Dog
Obviously, the ultimate thing you can do help Charlie, the unsung hero, is to adopt him. It is your obligation of course, to make sure you are doing so responsibly. There is always a commitment made when you adopt a pet. You need to be prepared financially and emotionally. This is true even more so if you want to adopt Charlie.

You will need to be prepared to meet the special needs that he may have. Many returning Military Dogs don’t like to go in doorways. Some tend to chew their fur during thunder storms. Some even need expensive stress reducing medications. If you want to adopt Charlie, you are doing him a great service, but only if you do it right.

It is likely that he has lost enough of his comrades – canine and human alike. It would be detrimental to him to another one come into his life just to leave it.

A simple Internet search can put you in touch with organizations to assist you. However, you might be surprised to learn that sometimes Charlie is in your local shelter. Although surprising and sad, it is true. Charlie deserves a peaceful life as a civilian after all that he has done to keep his country safe. You can help to make that happen.

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