Military Working Dogs are Veterans too
Fox Valley Labor News: Different people have different answers about what our country’s first line of defense is. Some may say it’s the U.S. Marine Corps. Others may say it’s intelligence. Still others say it’s diplomacy. But ask Ohio resident Starline Nunley and she’ll tell you emphatically that our country’s first line of defense is our Military Working Dogs (MWDs).
MWDs have been in service for decades, since the Civil War era and earlier. In ancient times, dogs were sent into battle to attack the enemy. In modern-day military tactics, that approach has been abandoned as the military dogs would be immediately killed.
Today, these dogs are used to sniff out booby traps, trip wires, explosives, people with suicide vests strapped to them and animals with surgically implanted explosives. Nunley said a recently published report indicated that one military working dog, doing one tour, saves 1,082 lives.
“These dogs are extremely important to us. They are absolutely the first line of defense for our Marines and soldiers,” Nunley said. “You don’t hear about these dogs at all because what they do is good and good it not what makes the news. These dogs do the best thing in the world: They save our soldiers’ lives everyday,” she explained.
These dogs, just like our Marines and soldiers, experience the extreme heat of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the blowing sand and rough terrain. Unlike our service men and women, the dogs went unprotected. Their eyes become infected from the blowing sand and their pads are cut and blistered from the hot sand.
Nunley’s son, Lt. Col. Parker Frawley, noticed these problems firsthand. Frawley has been serving in the Army for 16½ years. He is not a dog handler, but an Apache Longbow helicopter fighter pilot. He was promoted to Lt. Col. In his downtime, he would visit a local dog kennel and saw the toll the Iraq heat and terrain were inflicting on the MWDs.
Frawley knew there was little he could do, so he called his mother. “He knew I’d find a way to get it done,” Nunley said. She knew the dogs needed cooling vests, goggles and booties. “Within seven weeks, I outfitted 15 dogs in that first kennel,” she said. “When that was done, I was proud of myself. I set out to accomplish what I intended to do.” But, her plan was not finished — it was just beginning.
“The Creator had a bigger idea for me. The first 15 dogs were just the beginning. Word soon spread and before I knew it, another kennel master e-mailed me for help. I couldn’t say no,” she explained. That was two years ago. Since then, her passion for dogs and our service men and women led her to create Military Working Dogs Cooling Vest Project. This organization raises funds to outfit a dog with everything it needs to survive a tour of duty: A cooling vest, Doggles (eyewear for dogs), Muttluks (dog pad protectors), Mutt Muffs (dog hearing protection), the FURminator (deshedding tool), a collapsible water bowl and a toy.
For the handlers, receiving the equipment they need to keep their dogs going is more than words can express. The gear allows the dogs to work more efficiently in the heat, which can reach temperatures of 130 degrees. The heat increases the dogs’ fatigue, in turn, increasing the danger to both the dog and handler.
She added that MWDs outrank their handler by one rank. With stress, the temptation to strike or yell at the dog is strong. If a handler were ever to strike his or her dog, the consequence would be the same as striking an officer. The handler would be court-martialed. “I have never heard of it happening because those dogs save our men and women, so why would they ruin that bond?” she said.
“What is most important to me is that people know that there are dogs out there doing this job and that our sons and daughters are the ones benefiting from it,” Nunley said. “Every person in the military benefits every time a dog finds a bomb.”
Want to support this wonderful project and our MWDs? Go here.