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Posted on Sun, May 26, 2013 : 6 a.m.

Military working dogs shouldn't be forgotten on Memorial Day

By Lorrie Shaw


Flickr photo by US Army

Memorial Day is celebrated as the unofficial start of summer, and an oft-repeated question that you'll hear asked is, "What are your plans for the next few days?"

I'm happy to be "on-the-clock," so to speak, taking care of countless pets while their families are getting some much-needed time away. There's also plenty of weekend gatherings going on, laden with food, fun and relaxation.

Of course, we can’t forget that Memorial Day is a time to remember those who died while in our country's service. With the events of the past several years, I think we are all more mindful of the effort and sacrifice by members of our military.

With a traditional image solidified in our minds of those who have served in the military, chances are that we might be missing an important group who gives as selflessly: Military working dogs.

Since World War I, military working dogs have been in use, and, during the Vietnam War, the use of military working dogs increased. German Shepherds were usually the breed of choice, along with Labrador Retrievers. Capacities that the dogs (and their handlers) served in were usually as scout dogs, combat tracker teams and mine tunnel dog teams.

So, why use dogs in this capacity? It’s simple.

Dogs are amazing creatures and have abilities that are unmatched by even the most well-trained human soldier. In some cases, without their "expertise," so to speak, some of the strides that are made wouldn't be possible.

The capacity do military working dogs serve in is quite remarkable. They’re involved in patrol work and in explosives detection skills. During peacetime, they assist their human counterparts in drug intervention along the United States' southern borders and work as drug detector and explosive detector dogs with the Secret Service.

In saving countless lives, those canines have also become casualties.

Over the years, their stories have been told in documentaries, in books and in the news.

In the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Iraq, military working dogs continue to play an important role alongside their handlers, and some have paid the ultimate price. Read their stories by clicking here.

With each passing year, one thing has become evident: Without the sacrifice of military working dogs, some of the work that is done would be much more difficult or impossible.

On this Memorial Day, let’s take a little time to remember that these animals are equally deserving of our gratitude as well.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly and subscribe to's email newsletters.



Tue, May 28, 2013 : 8 p.m.

"animals equally deserving", you can't be serious!


Mon, May 27, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

I could not agree more. More and more of these dogs are left overseas once and hence the user and I mean user leaves for home. These dogs become family to the adoptee. I am hearing this is changing and the dogs are coming home with the soldier. Good article and glad to hear someone is remember a hero that goes silent every day.


Sun, May 26, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

Lorrie, thank you for this article, I'm truly embarrassed that it didn't occur to me! Here's to our four-legged service personnel, past AND present!


Sun, May 26, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

Thank you for this article. Let's not forget Sergeant Stubby, one of the finest and most highly decorated military working dogs: