ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Working Dogs In The News

Updated on January 17, 2011

The Dog Works Hard For The Money

Dogs do important jobs. There are many areas where dogs make all the difference. Detection, Search & Rescue or Service dogs love to work and they work hard.

This is a companion lens to my Working Dogs lens. This is where I'll post news storys about working dogs. 100% of the royalties from this lens go to First Coast No More Homeless Pets.

Note: I'm in the process of moving stories from previous years to their own lenses. I'll post the links to these archives here as soon as they are active.

Working Dogs In The News 2008 Archive

Working Dog Related Sites

Every once in a while I find an interesting website, blog post or slideshow. Whenever I find them I'll add them here.

These five German shepherds, shown with owner James Symington, are genetic replicas, clones, of Trakr, a famous K9 police partner and search and rescue dog. Symington is training the dogs to help in search and rescue efforts throughout the world. Pho
These five German shepherds, shown with owner James Symington, are genetic replicas, clones, of Trakr, a famous K9 police partner and search and rescue dog. Symington is training the dogs to help in search and rescue efforts throughout the world. Pho

Cloned dogs training for search and rescue

posted Jan. 17, 2011

Malibu has recently become one of several training grounds throughout the greater Los Angeles area for five German Shepherds as rescue dogs. But these are no ordinary dogs. They are genetic replicas, clones, of a K9 police partner, a famous search and rescue dog named Trakr.

Trakr has been credited with finding hundreds of people and more than $1 million worth of stolen goods. His crowning achievement, though, came in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster on Sept. 11, 2001.

Trakr and his owner, former Canadian police officer James Symington, arrived at Ground Zero from Halifax, Nova Scotia within 14 hours of the towers' collapse.

“At some point during the morning of September 12, Trakr got a hit, indicating that somebody alive was buried beneath the surface,” Symington said.

Rescue workers excavated the area and pulled out a woman. She would be the last survivor found after 9/11.

Dr. Jane Goodall feted Trakr with a humanitarian service award, and his story was featured on CNN, the CBS “Early Show” and other national news programs.

A few years later, Symington and his family moved to Los Angeles, where he works as a manager in the entertainment industry. It was there that Trakr's odyssey took a turn for the surreal. In 2008, Symington learned of a contest being conducted by BioArts International, a biotech corporation based near San Francisco, for the “World's Most Clone worthy Dog.” Trakr by that point was 15 years old, aging and infirm. Symington entered Trakr into the contest, along with a DNA sample. He won, and later, five genetic replicas of Trakr were produced at the Sooam Biotech Foundation, a laboratory in South Korea.

In June of 2009, the puppies arrived in Los Angeles to meet Symington for the first time. Symington gave them names to reflect different qualities of Trakr: Trustt [sic], Solace, Valor, Prodigy and Deja vu. But they would never meet their genetically identical father-Trakr had died two months earlier.

Symington then founded the Team Trakr Foundation, resolving to train the dogs for search and rescue operations. In Symington's vision, Team Trakr will operate similarly to Doctors Without Borders. Whenever a disaster, such as last year's earthquake in Haiti, occurs, a Team Trakr dog will be sent to the area to assist in search and rescue operations. Symington estimates that a search and rescue dog is the equivalent of 20 or 30 human searchers.

“Dogs have a keen sense of smell and use their noses in ways people cannot, searching an area faster and more efficiently and increasing the chances of finding people alive,” he said.

Symington said he is grateful for the gift of the dogs, but wishes to avoid becoming embroiled in the debate over cloning.

“I respect that cloning is not for everyone,” he said.

BioArts International initiated the cloning contest in 2007 to gauge interest in the commercial cloning market among private pet owners, but has since discontinued it after lower-than-expected interest apparently answered its question. One significant benefit of cloning in this particular case is that each of the dogs possesses Trakr's unique characteristics-an incredible drive, air-scenting ability and adaptability to diverse terrains-that are difficult to find in one dog. By having Trakr cloned, BioArts International effectively short-circuited nature to produce five world-class search and rescue dogs.

The dogs began training in December under the direction of Kevin Gallivan, an experienced trainer from Nova Scotia who trained Symington and Trakr in 1995. In February or March, each dog will be matched with a handler. The handlers will then be integrated into the training, which Symington hopes to complete by April. At that point, the dogs will be ready for deployment wherever they are needed across the globe.

The dogs have been training at a private property in Malibu for one or two days a week.

“The Malibu community has been very welcoming and supportive,” Symington said.

Of particular help, he said, have been Malibu residents Nereida Heath and Christina Carmel. Heath and Carmel learned of the organization's cause and helped locate training locations in Malibu.

Heath said she fell in love with Team Trakr's mission, because, she said, “It's not a matter of if [a disaster's] going to happen, it's when.”

Once the dogs' training is complete, Symington, an advocate for rescuing shelter dogs, intends to begin phase two of Team Trakr's mission, called Operation Second Chance. They hope to rescue dogs from shelters and then train them as search and rescue dogs.

People who wish to learn more or donate to Team Trakr can do so by visiting its Web site,

The process of training search and rescue dogs

James Symington stands beside trainer Kevin Gallivan and Trustt-the dog Symington said looks most like Trakr, the dog from which Trustt was cloned. With what is called a “kong,” an oblong pink ball, in his hand, Symington runs alongside a row of six red cloth-covered tripods, hiding behind the fourth one. Trustt strains at the leash, jumping up and down, before Gallivan allows him to follow. Trustt soon finds Symington with the kong and Symington rewards him by throwing it to him.

“That's a good boy!” Symington yells repeatedly, and pets him.

In this exercise, Symington and Gallivan are training Trustt, along with the other dogs, to “speak for the kong.” It is an essential skill for the dogs to have during search and rescue missions, when they will have to rely on their noses, instead of their eyes, to find humans trapped under rubble and debris.

The process of training a search and rescue dog, Symington said, takes about four months.

“The dogs have to be trained in obedience, agility, tracking, article searches, area searches and building searches,” he said.

Most of the training boils down to basic psychology: give the dog an objective, then reward him with positive verbal and physical feedback.

In the case of missing persons, tracking is an important skill. That involves the dog putting his nose to the ground to follow a human scent trail. Everywhere humans go, they leave behind pheromones and skin rafts, microscopic portions of skin, which dogs can smell. Symington said this differs from area searching, where “the dog uses the air currents to detect a person's location. Trakr (who died several years ago) was able to detect and find persons up to two miles away using this method.”

“The whole game of search and rescue is a game of hide and seek,” he said. “They associate human scent with the toy.”

But though it is a game to the dogs, Symington knows that their success has very real consequences for people trapped during disasters.

According to, more than 50,000 search and rescue missions take place each year in the United States alone. Ninety percent of these are conducted by volunteers. If Team Trakr is successful, it could result in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of saved lives each year.

For now, the dogs will continue training in different locations and landscapes. They need to be able to search in wooded areas, open meadows, collapsed rubble, and in rain or sun, snow or sleet. Symington said he welcomes any volunteers in Malibu with large properties to offer as a new training ground.

“We're always looking for new places to train.”


Lex The Dog With The Purple Heart - posted Dec. 13, 2010

MoMo The Rescue Dog - posted Dec. 13, 2010

Therapy Dog Casper

Michigan State Police K9 "BANE"

Missing Since 11/13/10 from Ocqueoc, MI

Bane is a 4 year old sable colored German Shepherd who is assigned to Trooper Jamie Bullis of the Michigan State Police in Alpena Michigan. This team has been together for 2 and a half years, performing numerous searches for drugs, explosives, and missing persons.

When the original Facebook group was created, the goal was simple, let a few friends know and ask that they pass along the message to a few more friends. Quickly word traveled across the county, the state, nation, and even beyond US borders. Jamie and Joy Bullis are truly amazed and appreciative of the support they have received. There are hundreds of entries on Facebook expressing hope and support that Bane will find his way home.

This site and Facebook is about bringing a missing K9 home. Returning Bane to his handler so that he can continue to serve and protect the great people of Michigan. We're hopeful that you desire to learn more about Bane and ask that you consider passing this information along to friends. A reward fund has been established by Warren MacNeill of SPECVOC for information leading to the recovery of Bane.

These sites are maintained by Jamie & Joy Bullis and Warren MacNeill. Several friends are also helping behind the scenes, we do try our best to update the sites daily and pass along current information as we know there are many folks looking to hear any progress. Because this is being done on a volunteer basis, know there may be delays in posting information or replying to information.

Bane's Facebook Profile

The Find Bane Facebook Page

Donations may be mailed to:

Find Bane c/o Warren MacNeill

PO Box 284

Lincoln, MI 48742

Donations may be dropped off at any Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union Branch.

PayPal Donations may be sent to ""

Click Here

Downloadable Flyer:

Click Here

An important note from Jamie Bullis, Bane's Handler and MSP Trooper:

Due to the HUGE number of people visiting this page.......thanks to all........I am going to post this note to let the folks that join late know the scoop.

On 11/13/10 I was searching a tag alder swamp with Bane. We were searching for a missing dementia patient that had gone missing back in August. At around 2pm I gave Bane a rest. We went back to my patrol car, he got some water and about fifteen minutes to cool off.

At 2:15 we went back out searching. After about five minutes he was tangeled up in the tags. (I had him on a 20 ft tracking lead)

I dropped the lead to untangle him. About the time I got him free, a deer that had been bedded and was less than five yards from me jumped up and ran directly in front of Bane.

Bane gave chase. He was out of sight in about a second and I have not seen him since.

I am confident he is not caught up in the woods. The lead is made of nylon. He has eaten them in the past, just for fun. In addition, I had him on the 'dead ring' of the check chain. This means that it is not able to tighten around his neck and he can slip his head out of it. He has done this numerous times in the past so it is not a concern to me.

We have searched a huge area, including using some of our other canine teams, a departmental helicoptor (with thermal imaging) and two fixed wing aircraft.

We have handed out flyers in a thirty mile radius around where he was last seen.

We had two possible sightings of him on 11/15/10 approximately 8 miles south of where I lost him.

My home is approximately 65 miles south of where I lost him.

I am asking that if anyone responds to search the area, please stay in your cars until after the firearm deer season. It is simply to risky to be in the woods with all of the guns out there.

If you wish to drive the area to search for him, the roads between Atlanta, Hillman, Millersberg and Onaway are all within his reach. The state/public land south of 6 Mile Rd. in Presque Isle county is very large and there is a good chance he is out in there somewhere.

The news media has been great, but the more publicity we have, the better chance we have of getting him back.

Please report tips and sightings to:

989-354-4101 or 989-734-2204

Sally, 12, a police K9 that worked a search-and-rescue mission at Ground Zero in New York and is owned by Birch Run Police Officer Jason Wise, died Monday.
Sally, 12, a police K9 that worked a search-and-rescue mission at Ground Zero in New York and is owned by Birch Run Police Officer Jason Wise, died Monday.

K-9 Who Searched Ground Zero Dies

posted Nov. 25, 2010

Sally, a 12-year-old police canine owned by Birch Run Police Officer Jason Wise, died from complications caused by a suspected brain tumor Monday, her owner says.

Wise bought Sally, a police-trained black European Labrador retriever, in Canada for $10,000 when she was a pup.

He said she attained hero status after spending a week rummaging the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 2001 terrorist attacks. She located 11 victims.

The scent-savvy pooch worked for police departments in Breckenridge and St. Louis alongside Wise before they moved to Saginaw Township and took a job at the Birch Run Police Department about 10 years ago.

Upon return from the New York search-and-rescue operation, Sally was decommissioned and subsequently endured chronic health problems caused by inhaling toxic dust at Ground Zero, though she lived three years longer than doctors predicted based on exposure in New York that contaminated 65 percent of her lungs, Wise said.

She remained active, working with Wise when he gave speeches about their experience at the World Trade Center, attended public relations events for the police department and to train new K-9 dogs and their handlers.

But more than a working dog, she was a family member, Wise said, and will be missed greatly.


Let Boy Take Autism Service Dog to Class

posted Nov. 25 2010

The family of an autistic Florida boy is fighting the Collier County School District over whether he can bring a service dog to school.

The family of 6-year-old J.C. Bowen says the dog, a yellow retriever named Pepsi, helps the boy with issues related to his autism and seizures. The dog helps the child stay calm and knows what to do if he starts having a seizure. The family says the dog can catch J.C. if he starts to fall.

J.C.'s parents tried to get the dog added to his individualized education plan but says their request was denied.

An attorney for the district told the Naples Daily News he couldn't comment because the family and district are in the middle of a hearing that will resume next month.


Silhouette of soldier and military working dog from K9 Heroes: Together We Protect, Defend And Conquer As One by Nicole Arbelo.
Silhouette of soldier and military working dog from K9 Heroes: Together We Protect, Defend And Conquer As One by Nicole Arbelo.

Remembering K9s on Veterans Day

posted Nov. 25, 2010

Silhouette of soldier and military working dog from K9 Heroes: Together We Protect, Defend And Conquer As One by Nicole Arbelo.

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.

Buy K9 Heroes: Together We Protect, Defend, and Conquer as One


National Fun Flight Day a hit

posted Nov. 25, 2010

RAAF Base Amberley's 36 Squadron joined a national celebration for children struck down by serious illness at the weekend.

National FunFlight Day involves 16 airports across Australia and invited about 250 kids out to Amberley to experience the giant C17 Globemaster aircraft up close.

Yesterday they were given the chance to crawl in and over the monster transport planes as well as mix and mingle with the air force emergency fire crews and military police dogs.

If that wasn't enough, there was also a jumping castle, face painting and a barbecue.

Event founder of FunFlight Michel Verheem said FunFlight typified community with everyone pitching in and having a great day.

"It's about bringing everyone together, a celebration of doing something for others; but most of all, it's about the smiles on the face of the children," he said.

Nationally, more than 1600 passengers took to the skies as part of the day, which gives kids with life-changing illness or other adversities a day of what the defence force refers to as "aeronautic entertainment".

For more information about FunFlight go to their website.



Man Fired Over Euthanized War Hero Dog

posted Nov. 25, 2010

The Arizona animal-shelter employee who accidentally euthanized a hero dog from Afghanistan has been fired, officials in Pinal County said.

Target, the dog, was brought to the United States from Afghanistan, where she alerted Soldiers to a suicide bomber in February, CNN reported.

The dog went missing from the home of Army Sgt. Terry Young a week ago and was later picked up by Animal Care and Control. She was held over the weekend and euthanized Monday.

Animal Control fired the unnamed man who euthanized the dog following an investigation. His name wasn't released because of threats the shelter received, CNN said.

"We are continuing to look into management practices and procedures at Animal Care & Control to ensure that something like this cannot happen again," said Lisa Garcia, assistant county manager for Health & Human Services.

Target had a litter of puppies in Afghanistan; they have since been brought to the United States, and Target was featured by CNN for heroism.

"She got her name because the Afghans we lived with were constantly trying to off her. She's been shot in the leg. ... The Afghans actually ran over her," said Sgt. Christopher Duke, who helped care for Target in Afghanistan and has adopted her packmate Rufus.


Note: I don't often comment on stories but this one shows the reason all shelters should be "no kill." Having said that, I do not understand why this dog was not micro-chipped or tattooed. The military gives their humans dog tags. Why not it's dogs? This would not have happened if the humans responsible for her life had spent the money to protect it.

Retired Marine bomb-sniffing dog gets healing help from MSU

posted Nov. 25, 2010

Lex, a U.S. Marine Corps bomb-sniffing dog who lost his handler in Iraq, is getting help facing the challenges of aging with war injuries.

Lex was injured in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Fallujah that killed his handler, Cpl. Dustin Lee of Quitman. Lee's parents, Jerome and Rachel Lee, adopted Lex when he was granted retirement from duty.

Lex came to Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in late October. Dr. John Thomason, a CVM small animal internal medicine resident, is his attending physician.

"The main concerns were his reluctance to stand and his difficulty in standing," Thomason said. "He has also started to drag his hind limbs when he walks."

The college conducted a CT scan and a DNA test to evaluate for a specific genetic condition.

"The CT scan provides us the ability to evaluate his spinal cord and other neurologic structures that could be contributing to his condition," Thomason said.

Rachel Lee said the blast that killed her 20-year-old son on March 21, 2007, filled Lex's body with shrapnel, nearly severed his tail, and fragmented the rest of his body. The two had worked together since 2006.

"Dustin and Lex were out in front. They went ahead of the other troops, searching the roadsides and buildings for explosives. They made many, many hits," Rachel said.

Lex had been a military working dog for eight years and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was injured. After Dustin's death, Lex went to Camp LeJeune, N.C., to recover and then returned to the Marine base at Albany, Ga., where he had begun his career with Dustin.

Rachel said North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones heard of Dustin and Lex's story and spearheaded efforts for Lex to be granted retirement and adopted by his deceased handler's family.

"We adopted him Dec. 21, 2007, nine months to the day after we lost Dustin," Rachel said.

Lex received a commemorative Purple Heart in 2008 for the injuries he received while on duty. In 2008, he was named the American Kennel Club Law Enforcement Dog of the Year. Dustin's awards for his service include a Purple Heart, Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor, and a Combat Action Ribbon.

After he came to live with the Lee family, Lex began a new career visiting veterans' homes to cheer the residents and visiting schools to teach the children what military working dogs do for their country.

"Lex carries on the spirit of Dustin," Rachel said. "Lex brings joy where there is sadness. He helps to show the importance of the relationship between a canine and his handler, how close that bond is, and the trust they have with each other as they work to keep others safe."

Lex's family is awaiting results of the tests performed on him at MSU, and the diagnosis will determine future treatments. In the meantime, Lex is headed to Washington, D.C., for specialized stem cell exchange surgery, an attempt to rejuvenate his bones.

He may return to MSU's veterinary college for physical therapy and rehabilitation using an underwater treadmill.

The family maintains a website about Lex and Dustin .


Jones Helps Retired War Dog Receive Critical Care

posted Nov. 24, 2010

This week U.S. Congressmen Walter B. Jones (NC-3) and Ed Whitfield (KY-01) helped a retired war dog receive treatment to end the pain from injuries he received in Iraq. Lex, a German shepherd, sustained injuries in March of 2007 when he and his handler were hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) in Fallujah, ending the life of Corporal Dustin Lee of Quitman, Mississippi, and sending pieces of shrapnel into Lex’s back. With the help of Rep. Whitfield and his wife Connie, Dr. Lee Morgan of Georgetown Veterinary Hospital was made aware of Lex’s condition and volunteered his services. Dr. Morgan is a leader in using adult stem cell therapy for treating animals in pain and Lex’s procedure proved to be a success.

“This dog is a true hero and a blessing to the Lee family,” said Jones. “I am more than happy to do anything I can to help and I am so appreciative of Connie Whitfield and Dr. Morgan, and all those who contributed to this wonderful cause. I have been honored to know this special family for the past few years. Dustin was a hero and would have wanted the best for his partner.”

Congressman Jones, with the help of Gen. Mike Regner, was able to have Lex honorably discharged in December of 2007 and placed with the Lee family. Lex was the first U.S. Marine veteran working dog to be discharged early and adopted by a family of a fallen Marine.

“Representing Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne has allowed me the opportunity to interact with many of the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom,” said Whitfield. “ I have also seen firsthand the positive impact that dogs can have in caring for veterans suffering from the physical wounds and psychological stresses of combat. It has given me great pleasure to be able to work with so many people and organizations who wish to honor the legacy of Corporal Lee, as well as so many other fallen heroes, by bringing this dog to its new home.”

Connie Whitfield, Senior Advisor for Presidential Initiatives for the Humane Society of America, has contributed much time and effort toward helping Lex and the Lee family. The Humane Society has overseen fundraising efforts for Lex, and has been accompanied by donations from individuals and other organizations, including: the German Shepherd Dog Club of Northern Virginia, Shoreline German Shepherd Dog Club and the U.S. War Dogs Association.


US sniffer dog 'Khan' has its own passport

Posted November 2, 2010

Mumbai: The name's Khan, MWD Khan. Short and agile, he sauntered into Mumbai airport's international terminal around 12.15 pm on Tuesday. This was minutes after it had disembarked from a US Air Force Hercules C130 transport plane.

Just for the record, MWD Khan is a sniffer dog attached to the US commando unit assigned to protect US President Barack Obama during his Mumbai visit.The German Shepherd of Belgian lineage holds a US passport (set box), showing its name as MWD Khan. MWD is the acronym for 'Military Working Dog'.

"Khan strode out of the airport, accompanied by his trainer," said an eyewitness. "The dog and its trainer seemed inseparable as they walked through the green channel of the arrival terminal." They quickly disappeared into a private vehicle to a secret destination in south Mumbai.

"The dog had a metal tag around its neck with the name MWD Khan embossed on it," said a police source. "It had a leather guard strapped to its mouth, just to prevent the canine from attacking bystanders and passers-by." Sources said that the highly trained sniffer would spend the next few days close to where the US President will be housed. The dog enjoys all privileges that an army commando is entitled to.

The dog is trained to sniff deadly explosives generally used by terror groups like RDX, SEMTEX and C 4."Khan's job will be to sniff around for explosives in the hotel where the US President will put up," said a source. "The dog trainer is accompanied by experts from the (US) army's bomb disposal squad."

Meanwhile, around 40 scrappy commandos in civilian clothes, including three female commandos, also alighted from the C130 and were cleared after their travel documents were verified.

The air force C130 was also carrying a huge quantity of assorted weapons and ammunition required to protect the US President. "The quantity is huge. You can almost arm an army brigade with these weapons," said a source. The US government is not taking any chances in the wake of fresh intelligence inputs that operatives of the terror outfit, Al-Qaida, could strike during Obama's visit to India. Sources said a nation wide alert had been sounded. Intelligence reports indicate that the highly trained Al-Qaida operatives are capable of carrying out suicide attacks from the land and sea. The terror outfit has also managed to procure some deadly surface-to-surface missiles to carry out long-distance strikes.

The seafront around the Gateway of India has been sanitised between November 4 and 8. The airspace has been declared a no-fly zone to prevent any aerial attack. Police sources said that officials of the US Secret Services were already running a background check in all hotels across the city. Local sniffer dogs are being used to carry out the task, they said.


Update: You can't please everybody. Some people were upset by a dog being given a "Muslim" name. Understanding and acceptance is a two way street. Some people who have dogs love them more than anything else. They give names they love to their dogs. That said, we know that some people are looking for any excuse to take offense and cause a fight. There should have been a little more thought. They should have just named him Elvis.

Tinkerbell the peanut sniffing dog
Tinkerbell the peanut sniffing dog

Dog Helps Little Girl Stay Healthy

posted October 27, 2010

Elkhorn, NE - A little girl from Elkhorn is dealing with one of the most dangerous types of food allergies. Now, she's getting help from a special pooch that's specially trained to protect her from peanuts.

We've followed this little girl as she's struggled through a severe allergy and the family trying to raise the money to get this peanut detection dog. One week ago, Rebekah Kehr walked into her first grade class with a new friend and lots of confidence.

Rebekah has plenty to laugh about. Walking the halls of her elementary school, Rebekah, for the first time, is not afraid of what could hurt her. Tinkerbell is Rebekah's protector. The golden retriever is a working dog trained to sniff out peanuts. Her dog's vest is equipped with an emergency shot. In fact, the little girl is so allergic, only one percent of people in the world are like her. "If she was to get it on her hands and put it in her mouth, she could have a reaction and quit breathing in under two minutes," says Tonia Kehr.

Rebekah's mom, Tonia says an elementary school is extremely dangerous for her daughter. That's where Tinkerbell comes in. Each day, the dog checks for any trace of peanuts. When Tinkerbell sits, the area is not safe and needs to be wiped down.

We were there before Tinkerbell. Rebekah was very shy as she struggled through kindergarten forced to wear gloves, unable to eat lunch with the rest of the kids and living on medicine daily. Now, one week with Tinkerbell, the little girl plops down next to me and can't stop giggling. While she's not out of danger yet, we stop the interview so she can wash her arm, Rebekah Kehr certainly has come a long way. The smiling and now confident little six-year-old has Tinkerbell to thank.

The principal of Westridge School tells us the students understand Tinkerbell is a working dog and haven't gotten distracted by her. A dog like Tinkerbell is $7,500 dollars. Tonight, we can tell you, every penny was raised by people all over the metro.


Military Dog Demonstration - 10/25/2010 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - John Truemper, an iowa Western Community College student and new Air Force recruit, expe

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Palm wasn't the first Guide Dog for the Blind to be trapped by SkyTrain

Posted October 15, 2010

Two weeks ago a horrific accident happened at the Lougheed SkyTrain station in Burnaby when Iris Thompson, who is blind, was separated from her guide dog Palm, a five-year-old yellow Labrador, who was trapped by her leash outside the SkyTrain then dragged along the moving vehicle until she hit a metal pole and fell onto the tracks suffering serious injuries. SkyTrain officials told the media this was the first incident of its kind in the 24-year history of SkyTrain. But it turns out that isn't quite correct.

Another service dog for the blind, named Arden, was separated from his owner Bruce Gilmour, and trapped outside a train at the Broadway SkyTrain station. Like Thompson Gilmour, who is blind, was left helplessly holding his dog's leash on the other side of the automatic sliding doors. Luckily for Arden, a Golden Retriever, fellow passengers responded to Gilmour's request for help and somehow managed to pry the doors open in time before the train took off saving Arden from a similar fate to Palm or worse.

"It was only because of members of the public my dog wasn't destroyed. It happened so fast. The dog walked in and stopped. I said hop up and it wouldn't go because it couldn't move anywhere. There were people on the train and the entrance was clogged with luggage. The door cycled closed and opened again then closed. He backed off on the platform and the leash is stuck in the doorway. The door didn't open again.

"I was in shock. Frightened, telling people I needed help and by this point the luggage was moved out of the way and somehow the doors were opened," he said.

Gilmour said he was so shaken about the incident, which happened in 2006, he contacted TransLink officials requesting they investigate the incident to ensure all that could be done was done so this would never happen to another passenger. A representative from the California-based Guide Dogs For the Blind, where Arden came from, flew up for a meeting with Gilmour and TransLink officials. The group visited the station, and went through a number of scenarios on what could happen to someone with a disability. Gilmour pointed out at that meeting they discovered the SkyTrain door sensors wouldn't open if a blind person's white cane was stuck in the door, for instance.

"One of our proposals was they increase the sensitivity of the door. I was concerned it was going to happen again," he said.

Now that Gilmour's fears that another guide dog would be injured on SkyTrain has happened, he questions how much has the technology been adapted for special interest commuter groups, such as people with disabilities? He also poses a very valid concern about what is happening "for improving awareness and improvements for safety of disabled passengers with a service dog" and whether an automated transit system fully respond to passengers with disabilities?

Gilmour, by the way, is a friend of Thompson who spoke with her earlier this week about her hope Palm will be able to return to an active guiding career.

"I sense her frustration right now for she does not have an 'advocate.' Guide Dogs for the Blind, Palm and my dog's school, are in touch with Iris about how she is feeling and how Palm is doing and looking ahead in terms of getting Iris back with a working dog - ideally, Palm. However, her accident is two weeks old this Thursday and as of this date, SkyTrain has not contacted her about determining the facts as much as they can be, about what happened (and) improving awareness and improvements for the safety of disabled passengers with a service dog,"he said.

My next post will be TransLink's response. An interview with the chair of the Access Users Transit Advisory Committee, Rob Sleath, who is blind himself and a dog guide user for the past 14 years.


Doggles for military working dog

Doggles for military working dog
Doggles for military working dog

Injured military dog returns to Maxwell Air Force Base

posted October 12, 2010

Blek, a military working dog, returned to Montgomery after suffering injuries in an explosion in Afghanistan last month.

A 7-year-old German Sheppard and military working dog named Blek, injured in an explosion last month in Afghanistan, returned to the 42nd Security Forces Squadron at the Maxwell Air Force Base, according to its website. He did it in style, too, getting a Montgomery Police Department escort from the airport to the base.

Now retired due to the injuries, Blek is now recovering well despite the loss of his hearing after suffering shrapnel damage to the left side of his mouth and other slight damage to the area just above his right eye.

Blek's handler, Staff Sgt. Brent Olson of the 42nd Security Forces Squadron, is receiving treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, for wounds he sustained in the same blast alongside the dog, according to the base website.

Sergeant Olson will fill out the paperwork to be placed on the list of those who would like to adopt Blek.


Bloom and Onyx
Bloom and Onyx

Man bites dog (a police dog) in West Haven

posted October 12, 2010

A man who approached a police cruiser claiming, “I need a bag of dust,” struck an officer and bit a police canine early this morning, police said.

Officer Scott Bloom was on patrol with canine Onyx at 2:35 a.m. near 72 Elm St. when he spotted male walking with his pants falling down, police said. The male then removed his jacket and walked off the sidewalk toward the cruiser. Bloom rocognized the man from previous contact as Roderick Lewis, police said.

Lewis yelled to Bloom, “I need a bag of dust,” according to police. Bloom asked Lewis to repeat what he said and Lewis again allegedly said “I need a bag of dust.” Bloom recognized the street slang as meaning angel dust or PCP, police said.

Lewis then reached into his waistband while standing close to Bloom and Bloom immediately grabbed Lewis’s arms and ordered him to not reach for anything, police said. Lewis allegedly said, “you’re not stronger than me” and struck Bloom in his face with a closed fist. Bloom and Onyx then got into a physical altercation with Lewis, who continued to fight even though Onyx had Lewis’s right leg in his mouth, police said. Bloom said he heard Onyx yelp at one point during the altercation and saw Lewis biting Onyx on his right side. Bloom ordered Lewis to stop biting Onyx , but he allegedly refused to let go. Bloom reengaged Lewis with defensive maneuvers and Lewis eventually stopped biting Onyx, police said. Several officers arrived and assisted Bloom in handcuffing Lewis.

Lewis was taken to Milford Hospital for injuries sustained in the altercation and possible drug use, police said.

Lewis, 23, of 103 Elm St., was charged with assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct and cruelty to animals. Lewis is being arraigned at Milford Court today.

Bloom and Onyx were treated for their injuries and released.


The 5-year-old labrador had a shattered nose, cracked ribs, and a punctured lung after being dragged by a moving SkyTrain
The 5-year-old labrador had a shattered nose, cracked ribs, and a punctured lung after being dragged by a moving SkyTrain

Guide dog dragged along with SkyTrain

Dog's leash caught in SkyTrain doors at Lougheed Town Centre station

A guide dog named Palm is expected to make a full recovery after she had her leash caught in a SkyTrain door at Lougheed Town Centre station on Thursday and was dragged the length of the station platform before being slammed into a metal pole.

Horrified witnesses were helpless to intervene as the dog - owned by Iris Thompson, who is blind - was forced to run alongside the departing train when safety sensors failed to prompt the doors to reopen.

A second train reportedly went past the injured dog, who by then was cowering at the side of the track beyond the station, before an unknown man jumped down to rescue the animal, which triggered an alarm causing trains to stop running.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said the problem was the dog fell onto an area beyond the station that doesn't automatically trigger the sensor alarm.

"We don't anticipate anything beyond the end of the platform," said Hardie on Monday. "There's a pole at the end of the platform, and, under ordinary circumstances, things don't go into that pole. There was no reason to have sensors on that part of the platform."

He said the reason the doors failed to open despite the dog's leash being between them was likely due to its flimsiness.

"It might have been the dynamics of the leash being thin and lightweight," he said.

The five-year-old yellow Labrador suffered a punctured lung, a broken nose and cracked ribs in the accident, while Thompson is facing thousands of dollars in vet bills.

Hardie wouldn't say if TransLink would pay for Palm's treatment, but the transit authority has assigned an insurance adjudicator and is in discussions with the dog's owner.

Hardie added that this is the first incident of its kind in the SkyTrain's 25 years of operation.


Missing Service Dog

Richard Riddle, 56, says it's hard to look at pictures of Daisy. "Most of it's not knowing," he said. "I don't know if she's alive, I don't know if she's dead."

Daisy, a 4-year-old Boston terrier, disappeared a few days ago. Riddle said Daisy got out of the house in his Palma Sola Trace neighborhood in northwest Bradenton and never returned. After her disappearance, he says he's not only concerned about his dog, but also about himself.

"She let me know 'Hey, you've got a problem' and she'd jump on me and just start licking my face," Riddle said. Riddle developed seizures after serving in the Navy during Vietnam. Daisy is trained to recognize the symptoms before the seizures start, which is why Riddle says it's so important that he finds her. He's asking everyone to help him out, including his neighbor Michael Manassa.

"Just everywhere I go, I'm constantly keeping an eye out for her," Manassa said. He says he's been looking for Daisy as he drives to and from work on his scooter.Riddle is hanging up fliers around town hoping someone will recognize Daisy. He also checks the local shelters daily.

Daisy is micro-chipped, so if she's found, Riddle says it will be easy to get in touch with him. However, Riddle says as every day passes he fears the worst. "I would rather know that someone has got her than know she might be dead," he said. "It's not a case of no news is good news, it's a case of no news is a killer." Now, he's just hoping someone will find Daisy and bring her home. A reward is being offered for anyone who finds Daisy. She is a 16-pound, 4-year-old Boston terrier.

Contact Richard Riddle if you've seen Daisy: (407) 625-3161

Last seen near 75th Street West at Cortez

Daisy was wearing a chain collar with pink and a blue dog tag with Kissimmee address

Ceremony for Military Working Dog Kevin

Ceremony for Military Working Dog Kevin
Ceremony for Military Working Dog Kevin

Extreme Makeover Home Edition Gives Family A Service Dog

Posted May 9, 2010

“Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition” chose Wilderwood Service Dogs to provide service dog for their latest home makeover family. The family that is receiving a home makeover has a child with Prader-Willi Syndrome and had indicated that one of their greatest wishes was to get a service dog for their child, so Extreme Home Makeover started looking for help. Wilderwood has a distinct reputation for being an expert in providing service dogs for all neurological disorders, but we’ve become known for our work with children on the autism spectrum. Although Prader-Willi is not on the autism spectrum, Ethan experiences many issues that can be helped through the use of a service dog.

Ethan has anxiety issues and picks his skin obsessively until it bleeds. Cotton is being taught to use his paw to interrupt this action every time Ethan begins picking. Ethan soon will eliminate this behavior all together. Ethan also quits breathing during the night. Even though the family has medical equipment to alert them when Ethan quits breathing, Cotton will be a great backup and will allow Ethan to spend the night at a friend’s house and/or grandparents without having to cart all the medical equipment with him. Ethan also has some muscular issues that affect his walking and standing ability. Cotton has been taught that if Ethan begins to fall to lean into Ethan and roll Ethan over top of himself to prevent Ethan from injuring himself when he falls.


Dog Food Recall

Nature's Variety Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diet

February 11, 2010 - Nature's Variety has initiated a voluntary recall of their Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diet for dogs and cats with a "Best If Used By" date of 11/10/10 because these products may be contaminated with Salmonella. The only products affected are limited to chicken medallions, patties, and chubs with a "Best If Used By" date of 11/10/10. No other Nature's Variety products are affected.

The affected products are limited to the Nature's Variety Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diet packaged in the following forms:

3 lb chicken medallions (UPC# 7 69949 60130 2) with a "Best If Used By" date of 11/10/10

6 lb chicken patties (UPC# 7 69949 60120 3) with a "Best If Used By" date of 11/10/10

2 lb chicken chubs (UPC# 7 69949 60121 0) with a "Best If Used By" date of 11/10/10

The "Best If Used By" date is located on the back of the package above the safe handling instructions. The affected product was distributed through retail stores and internet sales in the United States, and in limited distribution in Canada.

If you are a consumer and have purchased one of the affected products, please return the unopened product to your retailer for a full refund or replacement. If your package has been opened, please dispose of the raw food in a safe manner by securing it in a covered trash receptacle. Then, bring your receipt (or the empty package in a sealed bag) to your local retailer for a full refund or replacement.

Nature's Variety became aware of a potential problem after receiving a consumer complaint. Subsequent testing indicated that the lot code related to the consumer complaint tested negative for Salmonella. However, additional subsequent testing found the "Best If Used By" date of 11/10/10 to be contaminated with Salmonella.

No pet or human illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this lot code.

Reed Howlett, Nature's Variety CEO, stated, "Because pet health and safety are our top priority, Nature's Variety takes every step necessary to ensure the quality and safety of our products. In addition to our industry best manufacturing practices, and in an abundance of caution, all Nature's Variety raw frozen products now will undergo a 'test and hold' period before being released for sale."

Salmonella can affect both humans and animals. Even though no illnesses have been reported, consumers should follow the Safe Handling Guidelines published on the Nature's Variety package when disposing of the affected product. People handling raw frozen pet foods may become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not followed the safe handling guidelines set forth by the company.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella may experience some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, or fever. Although rare, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments including arterial infections, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart), arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, or urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with the affected product should contact their health care provider.

Pets with Salmonella infections may become lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, or vomiting. Some pets may experience only a decreased appetite, fever, or abdominal pain. Infected, but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed any of the affected products and is experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

Consumers with additional questions can call our dedicated Customer Care line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-374-3142. Or, consumers can email Nature's Variety directly by visiting

Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue: Specially trained canines help those suffering aftermath of disaster, having daily strug

Posted March 20, 2010

Dogs perform lifesaving jobs every day. They sniff out bombs, locate lost children and even find people buried by avalanches.

Now another type of specially trained working dog has emerged in recent years. Comfort dogs come to the emotional rescue of people who are suffering in the aftermath of disasters or battling the difficulties of daily life.

Their job is deceptively simple: to get people to open up and talk about what happened.

Amy Rideout, president of HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, a national organization with more than 100 certified dog-handler teams, said engaging in a discussion about an experience is healing and helps a person to overcome a traumatic event.

There are other health benefits the pooches provide. Research has shown the simple act of petting a dog helps to lower blood pressure, lift spirits and reduce stress.

"There are not too many things that we can do that can make an instantaneous impact on somebody, so this is special work," she said.

To become certified with HOPE, dog-handler teams must go through 40 hours of basic training, then tackle specialized coursework such as learning crisis intervention skills and the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) incident command system, as well as participating in mock disaster drills. Dogs are painstakingly desensitized to sights, sounds and smells typically encountered during a disaster. And all teams are recertified yearly.

Members of HOPE have responded to some of the decade's worst tragedies, including Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech school shootings.

After 9/11, Rideout and her hound, Janie, were sent to a family assistance center in New York City to support families who had lost a loved one. But surprisingly, she said, it was the stressed-out emergency responders who seemed to need her and Janie the most.

"Those were the folks who would come up to Janie and give her a big bear hug and say, 'Thank you. I needed that before I went back to work today,'" she recalled.

Not all comfort dogs are used to help people emotionally cope after disaster strikes.

Meet Fuerst. Every weekday morning around 9 a.m., Pastor Tim Engel drives his faithful canine partner to work at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Portage, Ind.

Fuerst is one of nearly 30 Golden Retrievers permanently placed at churches throughout Indiana and Illinois by Lutheran Church Charities, a national ministry.

"His job is to help open up opportunities for conversations and Christian ministry that otherwise wouldn't happen," explained Engel.

The retriever has been at Holy Cross for a little more than a year now.

Fuerst -- the German word for prince -- goes everywhere with pastor Engel, from visiting nursing homes and emergency hospital rooms to attending Sunday service.

"Not everybody sees the value of [Fuerst] like I do," he admits. "But the majority of the members look forward to seeing him on Sunday morning and they understand his function in our church."

Like others in the K9 Parish Comfort Dog Ministry, Fuerst has his own business card. On the front are his picture and the church's phone number; on the back is his job description. The business cards are frequently handed out in the community, he said.

On occasion, people have phoned the church to schedule a private meeting with Fuerst -- and only Fuerst.

Engel laughs recalling some of those requests but insists that he isn't offended.

"If the dog provides comfort for people and is something that makes them feel more at ease then the dog is doing his job," he said.


Service dog goes to school with sixth-grader with autism

Posted March 20, 2010

Wayne Center Elementary School has a new student this trimester.

His name is Jefferson, and he walks the hallways, the classrooms, gymnasium and cafeteria on four paws. When he’s wearing his harness, Jefferson is all business. When the harness is off, he’s like most rambunctious, playful Labradors.

Jefferson is a specially trained autism service dog for 12-year-old Kelsey Fogle, a sixth-grader with multiple disabilities including autism. Kelsey is partially deaf, her speech is impaired and she can see only shadows in her right eye, but she moves about the school like other students with Jefferson’s assistance.

“She’s doing great,” said her life skills teacher Suzanne Bouvier. “The dog has made a difference.”

Kelsey was the topic of a series of The News Sun and The Star stories in March 2009. Her parents, Rod and Marcy Fogle of Kendallville, wanted an autism service dog for their daughter but couldn’t afford the $11,000 cost.

Kendallville Middle School (now called East Noble Middle School) functional life skills teacher Tami Housholder coordinated a fundraiser at the school for Kelsey called “Coins for Kelsey” even though Kelsey was not a student at the school. In two weeks the middle school students and staff raised $2,000 for the Fogles for an autism service dog from 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio.

Donations came in for several weeks after the fundraiser.

Employees at the Walmart Distribution Center in Garrett where the Fogles work learned of the fundraising effort and also contributed to the purchase of the dog.

The $11,000 cost for the dog was achieved through donations, and the Fogles picked up the dog in February.

Children with autism need structure. The slightest deviation from their daily schedule can upset them. They don’t understand reasons for changes. It makes them fearful and angry.

At first Kelsey was afraid of the dog, but she eventually took to Jefferson and they became close friends.

“Jefferson helps her with her balance and is trained to nuzzle close to Kelsey when she has a meltdown,” said Marcy Fogle.

“She’s had only two meltdowns since we got Jefferson when before she was having a meltdown daily.”

Wayne Center teachers explained to students Jefferson is a working dog for Kelsey and should not be distracted, said principal Karen Gandy. “The students want to pet the dog but they understand they can’t,” she said.

Jefferson wears a special harness, leash and sign identifying him as a service dog. Kelsey holds the leash and Jefferson leads the way. They go everywhere together.

The dog helps Kelsey connect with her surroundings, and his stability and companionship relieves her fear and anxiety.

Kelsey now has more independence.

The dog has a working life of about 10 years.

At home Jefferson is part of the Fogle family, and loves to run and play when his harness is off. “He’s full of energy,” said Rod Fogle. Jefferson sleeps at the foot of Kelsey’s bed.

The Fogles took Jefferson to East Noble Middle School to thank students and staff for their fundraising effort. “We’re so thankful to everyone,” said Marcy Fogle.


Store ejects disabled woman, dog Mac's faces rights complaint

Posted March 20, 2010

A wheelchair-bound woman who was kicked out of a convenience store says that ordeal was just the most recent discrimination she's faced in Windsor.

Mac's Convenience Stores Inc. has apologized after a clerk ejected Julie Holmes from a Windsor store because she had a service dog with her, but she's not dropping the issue. She's filed a human rights complaint.

"They have apologized and I appreciate it," said Holmes, 24, who has muscular dystrophy. "But if I accept sorry from them, I have to accept sorry from everybody. Then everybody can treat me like garbage as long as they say sorry. I have to get the point across and educate.

"It makes me feel horrible. I have every right to have my dog with me. She's an extension of me. I can't do things without her. It makes me feel like I'm less of a person. It's sheer discrimination."

Holmes takes Fancy, a two-year-old labrador retriever, everywhere. Fancy is a certified service dog worth more than $20,000 because of her training.

The dog picks objects off the ground including keys, cellphones, loose change and even its own leash if Holmes drops it. Fancy also opens doors, pushes elevator buttons and moves objects out of Holmes' way. If she falls, Holmes need only say "help Fancy" and the dog will bark relentlessly until help arrives.

Holmes said she and Fancy went into the Mac's at College and Campbell avenues Wednesday afternoon, and the clerk told her to leave.

"The guy kept saying, 'no, no, no,'" said Holmes. "I questioned what's wrong. He kept saying 'no.' I said the dog has a harness, he's a working dog, he has every right to be here. He just kept saying 'no.' We ended up leaving."

Undaunted, she returned later for a slushie. When she went to pay, the counter was too high and she couldn't reach, so Fancy jumped up to give the clerk some money. He wouldn't take it, said Holmes.

"He said 'take your stuff and leave,'" she said. "I said 'no, I want to pay for my purchase. I didn't come here to get something for free.'"

He still wouldn't take it, and Holmes' friend ended up giving the clerk money. Mac's apologized to Holmes after she complained.

"The store staff is absolutely in the wrong," Bruce Watson, Mac's director of customer relations, told The Star. "We have taken steps. The local market manager is in contact with the store now to correct this individual. Their actions were inappropriate and not in line with Mac's policy."

Watson said it's corporate policy to allow service dogs in stores, which falls in line with the Ontario Blind Persons Rights Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code. He added store operators receive training on the issue.

Holmes said this wasn't the first time she faced discrimination. She said people regularly question her on whether Fancy can be in public places. An area taxi company has repeatedly told her some drivers won't take her with the dog and that she must pay an extra $10 because of her wheelchair, Holmes said.

She said she was also discouraged from studying early childhood education at St. Clair College because of her wheelchair.

"They said that if I can't pick a child off the ground, then I couldn't pass their program," said Holmes. "I had to fight to stay in the program. Now I'm graduating this summer. I've met all their expectations, but I haven't done it without fighting."


Navy dogs in 'deplorable' conditions at contractor Part 1

Posted March 7, 2010

The task probably seemed innocuous enough when a small team of U.S. Navy personnel accepted it last fall. They would trek out to a private security contractor in Chicago to pick up 49 dogs, then transport them to a nearby military base. But what they found when they arrived was shocking, according to internal Navy e-mails: dirty, weak animals so thin that their ribs and hip bones jutted out.

The dogs were supposed to have begun working months earlier to sniff out explosives at Navy installations across the country, including several in Hampton Roads. At least that was the plan when, for the first time, the Navy decided to hire an outside contractor to supply K-9s and handlers to help protect dozens of its bases and ships. But when the dog-handler teams showed up for work last spring, they couldn't find planted explosives during military certification tests, according to the Navy. So the bases sent them back to the contractor, Securitas Security Services USA.

The Navy decided to cut its losses and ended the contract in July, eventually agreeing to buy the 49 Securitas dogs and train and handle them on its own. It sent its team to get the K-9s on Oct. 5.

The Navy declined to discuss what its personnel discovered that day, but according to e-mails obtained by The Virginian-Pilot, the animals appeared starved, neglected and dramatically different from three months earlier, when they failed the military's certification tests.

The e-mails say the Navy picked the dogs up at a warehouse. In one message, a civilian official described their condition as "deplorable." In another, he wrote that he feared the dogs would have died if the military hadn't come to get them.

In fact, the Navy said later, at least two of the dogs did not survive. Several others were deemed too sick to ever be of use. Nearly a year after they were supposed to have begun working, the remaining K-9s still are not patrolling Navy installations as intended.

Securitas disputes that the dogs were poorly trained and neglected. The company says it is owed more than $6 million for its services and for the animals. The Navy appears to have gained little from the deal besides the dogs, which Securitas bought for roughly $465,000, according to the owner of the kennel that sold them.

The Navy wouldn't disclose what it has actually paid out under the botched contract; officials would say only that they're still working to determine exactly how much the Navy owes Lockheed Martin, the defense giant that subcontracted the K-9 work to Securitas.

The story of the contract and its outcomes - wasted resources, the long delay in getting the dogs to work and the severe neglect they allegedly suffered - highlight the risk that accompanies the growing use of private companies to fill jobs that the military used to do itself.

In line with standard practices, Navy officials had little involvement in Lockheed's decision to hire Securitas, whose qualifications to provide explosives-detection dogs have been called into question in the past.

"Unfortunately, when the government isn't doing the work itself, it gives up control over who's doing it and how it's being done, and problems like this are often the result," said Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert in military contracting. "Our military has gotten very good at outsourcing but not very good at oversight."

The state of Illinois has launched an investigation into the dogs' treatment; so far, no criminal charges have been filed. The Virginian-Pilot learned about the matter after the Navy e-mails were leaked to the newspaper.

For decades the military has employed dogs trained to sniff out explosives. Besides protecting domestic bases, detection dogs are now routinely deployed to overseas combat zones to help troops uncover bombs. Properly trained K-9s typically undergo months of preparation and form close bonds with their handlers before going to work. Generally, the military teaches its handlers to see their dogs as partners to whom they should be able to entrust their lives.

"Working dogs - especially explosives dogs - they can be put at great risk in the line of duty," said Harold Bennett, who spent more than a decade training K-9s for the Norfolk Police Department and now serves as president of the North American Police Work Dog Association. "They should be treated accordingly, like a member of the handler's family."

Across all its branches, the military keeps roughly 2,000 working dogs.

The Navy's shift to private explosives-detection K-9s came as part of a decision in 2008 to outsource a number of base security services. In January 2009, Lockheed announced it had signed a $350 million, five-year contract with the military under which it would provide services including surveillance and management of armories at 79 Navy sites across the United States and in Guam.

Part of the contract called for Lockheed to provide explosives-detection dogs to supplement the Navy's own K-9 forces and free up more Navy dogs to deploy overseas. The contractor dogs would be used to screen cars, search barracks and respond to bomb scares at 32 domestic installations, including Norfolk Naval Station, Oceana Naval Air Station, Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, Yorktown Naval Weapons Station and Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

Soon after it signed the agreement, Lockheed subcontracted the K-9 portion to Securitas. The global security firm is best known for its uniformed security guards, who patrol locations ranging from malls and grocery stores to subway systems and overseas military bases. Securitas began offering K-9 services about seven years ago.

Securitas bought the 49 dogs it planned to use for the Navy job from Vohne Liche Kennels, an Indiana-based business that offers work-ready police dogs as well as training courses for handlers.

Between last February and April, Vohne Liche put 50 Securitas employees through three-week handling classes. Most of them came with no experience, said Ken Licklider, a retired Air Force K-9 handler who owns Vohne Liche. He said he charged Securitas roughly $465,000 for both the dogs and the handler training.

Like Securitas, Licklider disputed that the dogs and handlers weren't properly trained when they began reporting for work at Navy bases last spring. He acknowledged that many of them couldn't find planted explosives during military exercises but said they failed only because the tests weren't carried out fairly.

In a written response to questions from The Pilot, the Navy said that as of April 1 - the date all of the dogs were to begin working at the bases to which they'd been assigned - none of the dog-handler teams was able to pass the Navy's certification test. By early July, only 16 of the teams had passed, the Navy said.

By mid-July, the Navy had informed Lockheed that it was canceling the K-9 portion of the contract. By early August, the Securitas handlers had been dismissed and the dogs returned to the company's headquarters in Chicago.

Sometime during the following two months, the Navy decided to buy the Securitas dogs to try to train and handle them with its own personnel. According to Securitas, the Navy agreed to a price of $800,000 - nearly twice what Securitas paid for the dogs.

The Navy's team arrived in Illinois on Oct. 5 to pick up the animals and transport them to the nearby Great Lakes Naval Station. A military working-dog expert based at Norfolk Naval Station, a senior chief petty officer named Victor Solenberger, was promptly called in to evaluate them.

On Oct. 17, Solenberger sent an e-mail to an official at the command overseeing the Lockheed contract. He attached photographs documenting the dogs' appearance. One shows a small shepherd standing at attention, its ribs, hips and shoulder bones protruding sharply.

"After knowing these dogs were lean and (in) working fit condition in Aug, it was astonishing to see the condition we picked these dogs up in," Michael Reid, a Navy civilian official, replied Oct. 18.

He told Solenberger to maintain a "close hold" on the photographs, for fear that news of what happened would reflect poorly on the military.

"I wouldn't want one to pop out into the media unless we were in control of the story line," Reid wrote in the group e-mail.

The Navy reported the condition of the dogs to authorities soon after it picked them up, said Jeff Squibb, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the agency that is now investigating the matter. But Squibb said the Navy waited until mid-December to file a formal abuse complaint, then took weeks longer to respond to the state's follow-up questions.

"My understanding is that our staff was stalled for quite a while because they weren't able to get specifics from the Navy," Squibb said. "So our investigation only recently got under way."

Jim McNulty, an executive vice president with Securitas, said in an interview that the dogs were healthy and well-fed when the company handed them off in October, and he disputed that they were kept in a warehouse.

"They were in excellent shape," he said, adding that Securitas officials have not seen the photographs of the dogs.

McNulty suggested that the alleged neglect might have taken place while the K-9s were in the military's custody. The internal Navy e-mails and photograph appear to discount that; they were sent within days of the date that Securitas confirmed it turned over the animals.


Navy dogs in 'deplorable' conditions at contractor Part 2

Posted March 7, 2010

While Securitas also disputes that its dog-handler teams weren't adequately trained, the Navy's experience did not mark the first time that the abilities of Securitas' K-9s have been called into question. In 2006 the Chicago Sun-Times conducted an investigation in which it hired an undercover tester to repeatedly carry explosives past a Securitas bomb-sniffing dog and handler assigned to protect the Chicago area's Metra commuter rail system. The dog and handler failed to react or discover the explosives, even when they were set down in front of the dog, the Sun-Times reported.

Securitas and Metra countered that the newspaper's test was unfair because the dog hadn't been commanded to actively sniff for explosives. The Sun-Times investigation also documented Securitas handlers sitting around and talking for hours at a time instead of patrolling, the newspaper said.

Squibb said the state of Illinois has received only one other report of abuse against Securitas besides the Navy's since the company first obtained its animal license in 2003. That complaint involved allegations that a Securitas handler was seen treating his dog roughly; it was dropped after the handler quit.

McNulty said Securitas is "working every day" to try to collect the $6 million it says it's owed from the Navy deal. He said the company hasn't received any money for its work under the contract or for the dogs; Lockheed said in a written statement that Securitas has been paid in part but didn't disclose how much.

Through e-mail, a Lockheed spokesman answered basic questions about the Navy contract, but the company declined to respond to further inquires about the dogs' performance and about their treatment before the Navy bought them.

Navy officials wouldn't answer any questions about their abuse claim against Securitas, citing the ongoing state investigation. The Navy also would not make available for interviews any personnel with direct knowledge of the contract and how it played out.

In a written statement, the Navy said it expects 39 of the original 49 dogs to eventually patrol installations as intended. Several are now being cared for and trained at bases in the Hampton Roads area. The military is in the process of hiring and prepping its own civilian handlers to pair with the dogs.

Navy officials contended that the delay in getting the animals to work has not diminished security at the places where they were to be assigned. Bases are simply making do with fewer bomb-sniffing dogs, they said.

Singer, of the Brookings Institution, said failures such as those resulting from the Navy K-9 contract will probably become more widespread as the military service contracting industry continues to boom - mostly because measures to ensure proper government oversight have lagged sorely behind.

He added that the growing use of subcontractors has increased instances of wasteful spending and poor contractor performance.

"It's raised a lot of questions about what's appropriate to outsource, whether it's being done in a business-smart manner, and whether the work is being done ethically," Singer said. "Unless we enact policy solutions to keep it in check, the problems will only get worse."

Securitas continues to handle working dogs.

Officials with the company couldn't say how many it now owns, but its Web site states that it keeps at least 60 ready for immediate deployment.


Heroic search dog to be given 'Victoria Cross' for finding roadside bombs in Afghanistan

Posted March 3, 2010

An Army search dog that has saved the lives of scores of British soldiers in Afghanistan is to receive the canine equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Treo, an eight-year-old black labrador, has spent the past five years sniffing out bombs and weapons hidden by the Taliban.

Yet as a puppy he was a badly behaved rebel in danger of being put down until intensive Army training turned him into the gutsy canine described by his handler, Sergeant Dave Heyhoe, as the best military dog he has served alongside.

Now Treo is to be honoured with the Dickin Medal from the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals for his conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.

It will be placed around his neck this month by the charity's patron, Princess Alexandra.

Treo's heroics include finding a 'daisy chain' improvised explosive device (IED) while working as a forward detection dog in Sangin, Helmand Province, in March 2008.

A daisy chain is two or more bombs wired together and concealed by the Taliban on the side of a path to maximise casualties among soldiers on patrol.

Hero: Twice the dog saved soldiers and civilians from death and injury by sniffing out explosives which had been wired together and hidden

In September 2008, Treo saved another platoon from guaranteed casualties when he again found a daisy chain.

According to the Army, his actions have also saved other soldiers and civilians from death or serious injury.

Both Prince Charles and Gordon Brown have been introduced to the labrador on his return to Britain from his many six-month tours of duty.

Treo is attached to 104 Military Working Dog Support Unit, Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

Sgt Heyhoe, 39, who will accompany Treo to the award ceremony at the Imperial War Museum in London, described Treo as his 'mate and best canine friend'.

PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said last night: 'We look forward to honouring Treo with the Dickin Medal.

'It is recognised throughout the world as the animals' Victoria Cross. Treo is without doubt a worthy recipient.'

Treo will become the 63rd animal to receive the Dickin Medal for wartime service.

Since its introduction by the PDSA's founder, Maria Dickin, in 1943, it has been given to 26 other dogs, 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.

In February 2007, two Dickin Medals were awarded - one posthumously to Lucky on behalf of all the anti-terrorist dogs on duty during the Malaya campaign in the Fifties; and another to Sadie, an Army explosives search dog, for bravery in Afghanistan in 2005 alongside her handler, Lance Corporal Karen Yardley.

A Defence source said last night: 'There is no doubt that Treo has saved many, many lives through his expertise.'


Princess Anne gets to grips with Britain's canine soldiers in surprise visit to Afghanistan troops

It wasn’t exactly royal protocol - but Princess Anne didn’t seem to mind as she shook the paw of a working dog at Camp Bastion yesterday. The friendly dog jumped up to greet the Princess Royal during her surprise 2-day visit to British forces in Afghanistan. Princess Anne, who holds a range of honorary ranks with various regiments, was welcomed by the Queen’s Own Ghurkha Logistic Regiment with a traditional battle display when she flew into the region on Sunday.

She then spent time with dog handlers of The Royal Army Veterinary Corps and met the working dogs. Corporal Edward Kingsland, a Dog Handler of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, said the Princess had ‘taken a real interest’ in his work. He said: ‘I am personally delighted that the dog unit is getting the recognition it deserves. ‘It will be the same for all of those units who don’t necessarily make it into the headlines.

‘The importance of today’s visit cannot be underestimated.’

The Princess Royal lends a hand to a wary military dog as she talks to troops in Camp Bastion Captain Jo Barr, Adjutant of Bastion Joint Operating Base said: ‘This visit has been a great morale boost for the troops. ‘They see that dignitaries like the Princess Royal are genuinely interested in what we do out here.’

During her time in Afgahnistan, Princess Anne met soldiers and officers of the Queen's Own Gurkha Logistics Regiment, 9 Regimental Royal Logistic Corps, the Household Cavalry Regiment and 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital at Camp Bastion.

Buckingham Palace said the Princess, Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Corps of Signals, also toured the Joint Force Communication and Information Systems Headquarters at Kandahar.

She is also Royal Honorary Air Commodore, Royal Air Force Lyneham, and earlier visited the RAF Lyneham Detachment in Kandahar. The royal has connections with Canadian units and is Colonel-in-Chief of Canadian Forces Communications and Electronics Branch, Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Royal Regina Rifle Regiment.

Princess Anne’s last visit to Afghanistan was in October 2006.

Prince Andrew was the last royal before Anne to visit the region, in December last year.

Canine Assistants dog offers independence

Posted February 17, 2010

A disabled 13-year-old boy from Orion Township is to get a dog to help him pick up dropped items, turn on lights and gain independence through the Canine Assistants program.

Craig Henderson has three genetic disorders that affect his speech and ability to move on his own, said his mother, Donna Henderson.

She heard about the Canine Assistants program -- a nonprofit organization that trains and provides service dogs to children and adults with physical disabilities or special needs -- through an acquaintance and applied for a dog for Craig two years ago. On Tuesday, Craig learned he is to get a dog later this year.

"I'm excited," said Craig, who is to spend time training with the dog this summer. "I can't wait."

According to Frances Rosemeyer, spokeswoman for the Georgia-based Canine Assistants, each dog costs about $20,000 to train and other expenses. The expense for Craig's dog was offset by donations from Kroger and Milk-Bone.

Henderson said she thinks having the assistance dog will give her son more freedom and confidence.

"He's been looking forward to this for so long," she said. "He'll have a buddy. He'll have someone to help him, other than mom and dad. It's just a dream. He doesn't ask for much of anything but he really wants this, and I think it'll change his life."




Dogs Alert Owners to Oncoming Diabetic Crises

Posted August 18, 2009

These Labrador retrievers look like any two dogs playfully tugging at each other's ears in Kristin Wilson's living room - but both are at work.

Their job? To alert Wilson and Sheila Zamora of Fresno, Calif., both diabetics, when their blood-sugar levels are falling. Quick action is needed to spare them from dangerous effects of hypoglycemia - seizures or even comas.

Wilson's yellow lab Kolumbo and Zamora's black lab Sherman are assistance dogs, just like those who help the blind.

The women say these dogs have accurately detected when their blood-sugar levels have dropped - and have even reminded them to eat when they've failed to act.

Training dogs for diabetics is a relatively new idea At least one study seems to suggest that dogs can detect low blood-sugar levels in people, but researchers are still looking for proof and an explanation of the phenomenon.

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast in Ireland questioned 212 dog owners in 2008. The owners were Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetics. Their dogs all were just pets - not trained assistance dogs. Sixty-five percent of the owners said the dogs had reacted to at least one hypogylcemic episode, with 31 percent of the dogs reacting to 11 or more episodes.

The dogs' reactions included barking, licking their owners, staring intently and jumping on their owners. A few of the dogs trembled and some ran away from their owners, the researchers said.

It's thought the dogs detect a scent from the body when a drop in blood sugar is imminent or occurring, said Diabetics4Dogs Program Director Carol Edwards. The nonprofit, based in the Bay Area city of Concord, Calif., trained Wilson's and Zamora's service dogs.

The smell could be acetone, endorphins "and a few other things," Edwards said. But there are still more compounds to identify, she said. "I would love to know what they're smelling."

The dogs are exposed to the low-blood sugar scent in training, Edwards said. The dogs also receive obedience and social training before being placed with a diabetic, she said.

Since the nonprofit began training dogs in 2004, Edwards said few diabetics have returned their dogs for failing to detect hypoglycemia. The business has trained 50 dogs and has an additional 12 in training, she said.

The American Diabetes Association hasn't taken a position on diabetes assistance dogs, said Bo Smith, director of marketing and communications in the association's Los Angeles office.

"Science has not yet proven the dogs are reacting to a change in body chemistry," Smith said.

Wilson and Zamora, however, are convinced.

Even dog play doesn't keep the canines from their job. As they romp in Wilson's living room, Sherman stops briefly and bites a "bringzel," a black cloth pouch hanging around his neck. He looks at Zamora. When he gets Zamora's attention, he returns to nipping Kolumbo's ears. That was Sherman's signal for her to check her blood sugar, Zamora said.

Zamora's blood sugar isn't low, but it has dropped 31 points to 228 in the 17 minutes she's been at Wilson's home. Although Zamora doesn't need to eat, Sherman gets a treat - cheese crackers.

Wilson and Zamora are longtime insulin-dependent diabetics - Wilson, 38, was diagnosed with diabetes at age 6; Zamora, 45, has had diabetes since she was 17.

The women's blood-sugar levels can plummet without warning to below 50, a level low enough to cause seizures and coma. Because they have had diabetes for so long, they no longer experience cold sweats, tremors or other warning symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Zamora has had seven seizures - five within the last two years, including two that occurred when her husband was not home. Her teenage daughters called paramedics for help in the middle of the night each time. One of the seizures lasted 25 minutes.

She got Sherman in October so her daughters would not have to go through that again, Zamora said.

Wilson, a single mother, hasn't had seizures, but she wanted an assistance dog to prevent them. She brought Kolumbo home July 25 from Diabetics4Dogs.

Wilson spent two weeks at the Concord, Calif., dog-training site learning how to handle a service-assistance dog. Kolumbo was placed with her after the fourth day. The training included taking him to stores, restaurants, on a bus ride and on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, she said.

Wilson, a Fresno County Children's Protective Services worker, paid $50 for an application fee and $100 for training materials. Other costs, including a dog crate, were about $1,400, she said.

Kolumbo and Wilson are still in training. They won't "graduate" until the dog consistently alerts Wilson when her blood-sugar levels drop. Wilson must keep weekly charts to show how Kolumbo is doing. "He's at about 80 percent accuracy," she said.

Zamora, a second-grade teacher at Heaton Elementary, said Sherman's accuracy is "amazing." Three times in the past two weeks, the dog caught low-blood sugar levels while she swam in her backyard pool, she said.

Wilson's learning not to ignore the dog's signal - he puts his head on her arm when her blood sugar is dropping, she said.

Wilson said she takes the dog with her to work, the store and in the car. "I take him everywhere," she said.

Sherman will be at Zamora's side when her students return to school on Aug. 17. Her students know he's a working dog, she said. Last year when she introduced Sherman to her class for the first time she let the boys and girls briefly pet him. "The rest of the year, they didn't touch him," she said.

The women said the service-assistance dogs quickly become indispensable.

Kolumbo is "my guardian angel," Wilson said. "I don't know what I would do without him."


K-9 led police to murder suspect, sniffed out $2 million in drugs

When the murder suspect's footsteps faded, Fin's nose led police to his hiding place.

The Gaston County Police K-9 collared the accused killer, a Shelby man traced to a home in Bessemer City, more than four years ago. His handler, Sgt. Billy Downey, said the successful track is just one of Fin's many crowning achievements.

"It was a difficult track because (the suspect) got over two six-foot privacy fences," Downey said. "He was the most wonderful police dog I've ever worked with, and not just because he was my own."

The 12-year-old German shepherd died Monday after his veterinarian found an inoperable heart tumor. Fin had been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and retired from service in December 2006. He lived with Downey and his family.

County police bought the dog from a Charlotte trainer when he was 4 years old. Fin received training in schutzhund, a working dog sport that tests canine agility and protective traits, and Downey trained him to perform article searches, track humans and sniff out illegal drugs.

Fin led police to more than $2 million worth of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other drugs during his five-year career, Downey said. Police K-9s live with their handlers, and Fin transitioned well from a family pet to a duty dog.

"When he was at home, he was playful and he got along with everyone," Downey said. "He would let the kids ride on his back and pull his ears. As soon as he got in the back of the police car, his demeanor changed. He knew he was going to work."

In summer 2006, Fin developed hip dysplasia, a genetic condition common to the German shepherd and Belgian malinois breeds favored by law enforcement. He was retired that year and continued to live with Downey - who earned his sergeant's stripes the same month.

Fin's health had declined, and he wouldn't have survived an operation to remove the tumor. Downey had him euthanized to relieve his suffering.

"I've got hundreds of stories about him, about the things he's done," Downey said. "He was a great watchdog, and he loved being in the backyard, playing with the kids. The family misses him bad already."


Sgt. Mike Fridley and Niko

Posted August 2, 2009

“This is the biggest our unit has ever been,” said Sgt. Mike Fridley, the handler of Niko, a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois.

Niko is a multi-purpose working dog who is certified in narcotics detection, tracking and apprehension.

Fridley previously served as a military police K-9 handler in the U.S. Marine Corps and said he always wanted to become a handler in civilian law enforcement.

Fridley went to then-Sheriff Bill Laird and requested a dog.

“He said, ‘Mike, I’ll tell you what. If you go out and raise the money for it, we’ll get you a dog,’” Fridley said.

He did just that.

“I went out to the public — the Fayette County Board of Education, the park service, Elkem Metals, Dr. Millie Peterson ... just all over Fayette County, and I raised over $27,000.

“I came back in a few days and said, ‘Sheriff, I have the money. I’m ready to get a dog.’ He couldn’t believe it. That’s how much the public helped in getting our K-9 unit started.”

Fridley bought Niko at Augusta K-9 in Virginia. He stayed there for 8 to 10 weeks to train with his new dog.

“I showed up down there and the guy said here’s two dogs,” he explained. “You start out with the two, and you see who you work best with.”

Paired with a German shepherd and Belgian Malinois, Fridley said, “The shepherd and I got along well, but me and Niko were meant to be.”

The Belgian, whom Fridley calls a regular member of his family, has been Fridley’s partner in crime-fighting for the last nine years.

“We hit it right off, went through our schooling and got certified. We’ve been on the road ever since.”


Niko, who’s 9 years old, has been a shining light for Fayette County ever since day one.

In some of his larger finds, he’s found a half kilo of cocaine, which was packaged with a Mexican Mafia stamp on it, and 48 pounds of marijuana.

“The marijuana was wrapped in cellophane with orange gel in it. They were trying to hide the scent, but it didn’t deter Niko. He about ate through the box ... We’ve found a lot of dope,” Fridley said.


Niko is also first-class when it comes to tracking and apprehensions.

“I’ve done a lot of good tracks. I’ve found bad guys, lost people.”

Several months ago. Niko was used at Pine Knoll Apartments where a man wanted in New Jersey was hiding. After the man exited a back door and refused to comply with police commands, Niko was released, and he successfully apprehended the man, who was said to be armed and dangerous.


“These dogs live to work. They live to make you happy,” Fridley said.

“I start up my cruiser in the morning and I go down and let him out of the kennel. He runs from his gate to the car and jumps in back. By the time I get around front, he’s sitting there, like ‘where have you been, dad.’ It’s time to go to work. And he’ll pace the whole time.”

Today, Niko’s one of the oldest dogs in the department.

Police dogs typically retire at 8 to 10 years, but Fridley says he doesn’t want to jinx it by predicting how much longer Niko will work.

“Niko hasn’t lost a step yet. He’s still got a high drive. He loves going to work. I’ll keep him as long as I can and as long as he’s able to get into the cruiser and go to work.”

Sheriff Steve Kessler, whom Fridley says is 100 percent supportive of the K-9 unit, has made arrangements so that each of the handlers can keep their dog, when it retires.

“They’re your partner. They’re with you at all times,” Fridley said. “They’re very protective of their handlers — especially our dual purpose dogs.”

Fridley and Niko were picked as K-9 officer of the year at this year’s Fraternal Order of Police awards ceremony.

“That was humbling,” Fridley said.

“It was for making apprehensions, finding drugs. He’s part of our family. He is our family. I call him my son.”


"Meal" in dog food can lead to fluoride toxicity

If your dog's food contains bone meal and other meat by-products, the Environmental Working Group recommends switching to brands free of these ingredients in order to minimize your dog's exposure to harmful pollutants, including fluoride. Among other things, high levels of fluoride can lead to cancer in dogs.

Read the study

9/11 'hero dog' is cloned five times

Posted June 19, 2009

The winner of the Golden Clone Giveaway - a competition to find the world's most "cloneworthy" dog - has been presented with his cloned puppies.

Trust, Valor, Prodigy, Solace and Deja Vu are clones of Trakr, a German shepherd that with his handler was one of the first to arrive and begin searching for survivors on September 12, 2001 at the site of the World Trade Center. Trakr located the last human survivor rescued from the rubble.

The dogs were cloned by California firm BioArts International, in collaboration with South Korea's SooAm Biotech Research Foundation, directed by disgraced scientist Woo-Suk Hwang .

Trakr died earlier this year. His owner James Symington, a former Canadian police officer, said that one of the clones - Trust - was an exact replica of Trakr.

"The physical similarities are uncanny," he told AFP. "He's the spitting image of the Trakr that I first met in 1995. He has exactly the same markings, the way he moves, everything. Very alert, very intelligent and intuitive."

Of course, cloning is not a way of raising the dead. There are plenty of reasons why you might want to clone an animal - it may be an endangered species, a prize livestock animal, or a champion racehorse - but doing it to resurrect a beloved companion seems to be a dubious one.

The cost of cloning will prevent most people going down this route. BioArts boss Lou Hawthorne said dog cloning, at about $144,000 per clone, would remain beyond the reach of ordinary pet lovers. Hawthorne owns three clones of one of his own former pets, a collie-husky cross called Missy. (Read our interview with Hawthorne)

Meanwhile Hwang's former employers, Seoul National University, have their own canine programme, and recently created the world's first transgenic dog.


Fairmont Tremblant Has Gone To The Dogs: Golden Lab Gracie Now Greeting Guests

Posted May 15, 2009

Fairmont Tremblant has added two-year-old Golden Lab Gracie to the hotel staff. She joins the hotel as Canine Ambassador, to meet and greet guests, go for scheduled walks and runs, and be a community liaison. Says, Fairmont representive Joanne Papineau "Though she missed the opportunity to become an official Canadian Guide Dog by a snout, she is committed to her new goal of making every guest smile."

Gracie is Fairmont’s ninth canine ambassador. She's had some formal schooling with the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind in Ottawa, however incredible social skills proved to be better suited to the social life of a hotel ambassador, so she's joined theTremblant team.

Gracie is already very popular with children and children-at-heart loving attention and going for runs or taking leisurely strolls through the picturesque village of Mont-Tremblant. She works five days per week at the hotel. When not busy, she relaxes on her fluffy bed beside the concierge desk in the rustic, elegant country dcor, giving guests a tail wag.

The other eight Fairmont canine ambassadors are Santol at Fairmont Le Chteau Frontenac, Catie at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, Chunki and Kimi at The Fairmont Acapulco Princess, Sonny at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Dakota at The Fairmont Winnipeg, Holly at The Fairmont Waterfront and Mavis – Holly’s half-sister – and Beau, at The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.


Holloman bids Uro good-bye

Posted May 13, 2009

Holloman Air Force Base members said goodbye May 1 to one of their own at a memorial service rendering full military honors to a 49th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog.

Uro, a 4-year-old German shepherd, died April 24 at Holloman. His death was determined to be caused by gastric dilatation volvulus, which is common among larger breeds of dogs and also working dogs.

"He was a very calm and lovable dog and wanted to please everyone" said Staff Sgt. Stephanie Finch, K-9 handler/patrolman. "He was very friendly and if you just saw him (without his handler), you would never know he was a working dog."

Born on Oct. 17, 2004, in Germany, Uro came to Holloman in September 2006, having completed over 100 days of military working dog training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Like many working dogs, Uro was dual certified in narcotics detection and as a patrol dog.

Although he had not yet deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Uro was instrumental locally in the discovery of narcotics on five separate occasions, including two while working with a Joint Drug Task Force in El Paso.

Although loving and playful, Uro was also very protective of his fellow officers. On one occasion, Uro was dispatched to assist patrolmen who were dealing with an unruly individual. When the individual became violent, Uro's years of training and preparation paid off as he quickly subdued the individual, said Sergeant Finch.

"We protect the base population and the dogs protect us," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Williams, K-9 handler/patrolman, who was Uro's handler when he died.

Like all other active-duty members, Uro was provided full military honors, which included the presentation of the colors, the playing of "Taps," a flag folding ceremony and a three volley firing party.

"The untimely death of Military Working Dog Uro was a devastating loss for both our K-9 section and the unit," said Chief Master Sgt. Donald Tapp, 49th Security Forces manager. "Although one of our youngest dogs, he had conducted several thousand training and search hours in support of the home security mission. Uro was a true defender and a vital police asset. He will be greatly missed, but his devotion to duty in support of the 49th Security Forces Squadron mission will live on in spirit."


Ceremony recognizes military working dog's contributions, achievements

Posted April 23, 2009

Military working dog teams from throughout Victory Base Complex came out April 13 for a ceremony at the division chapel to honor one of their own. Kevin, a military working dog, passed away due to complications from cancer. His death was unexpected and left the other half of his team, Staff Sgt. Aaron Meier, in limbo and in mourning.

While in theater, military working dogs are not replaced, so Meier will be reassigned to other duties for the remainder of his deployment. As Meier now turns his attention to new job responsibilities, most of his focus still remains on the loyal partner and friend he lost.

“Kevin was the highlight of my day,” said Meier, a military dog handler, from Fairmont, Minn., assigned to Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.

For more than four years, Meier and Kevin built an excellent working relationship together. “Kevin was a great patrol explosive detector dog,” said Meier. “I could flip his on and off switch easily because of all the training we did together.”

During their course of working together, the relationship developed further and formed a powerful, personal bond between them. “I was planning on adopting Kevin after this deployment,” said Meier. “This was his last time deploying because of his age.”

Though he never got to adopt him, Meier and Kevin still had many unforgettable moments together. “I pampered him a lot because a happy dog works better.” Meier recalled the first time he gave Kevin a pillow to rest his head when they were together in a hotel preparing for a Secret Service mission. “Kevin had many human characteristics,” Meier added.

Kevin’s traits will always stick out in the minds of those who knew him. “He was very protective of Sgt. Meier,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Jasper, kennel master at Camp Liberty, DSTB, 1st Cav. Div. “Besides being a great detection and patrol dog, he was good for law enforcement purposes.”

As one of the first dogs to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kevin’s achievements were acknowledged during the ceremony. There were poems read in his honor, Taps was played by a 1st Cav. Div. trumpeter and military working dog teams left snacks in Kevin’s bowl as a tribute to his service. “It is appropriate to honor their service,” said Lt. Col. Barbara Sherer, from Springfield, Mo., 1st Cav. Div. command chaplain and co-coordinator of the ceremony. “Military working dogs are an important part of the military team and sometimes they are taken for granted.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Staff Sgt. Jasper, “We consider dogs to be Soldiers too, they are constantly working.” The ceremony gives credit to all the dogs and all the work they do here and in the United States, he added.

Military working dog teams are called upon often to perform their duties, so there is rarely a chance for teams from the different camps to see each other. Kevin afforded each team the opportunity to see in each other more of the common ground they share.

As Kevin’s life, the attachment Meier had with him and the work they accomplished together were celebrated, new bonds formed among the Soldiers. They realized more the value of their military working dog teams and appreciated the chance for one of their own to be recognized.


Transit driver resists allowing service dog on bus Disabled woman seeks apology for 'hostile and combative' behaviour

Posted Feb. 12, 2009

When Lena Wilson tried to board the No. 240 bus in North Vancouver last Thursday, she was shocked when the driver initially refused to let her service dog Kelly on the bus.

Wilson has been physically disabled since the age of 14, when toxins from an E. coli infection entered her brain, and left her with dystonia, a serious neuromuscular disorder. All four of Wilson's limbs are affected by the disorder.

Wilson, a 27-year-old recent University of B.C. graduate, must use a wheelchair, and relies on a Pacific Assistance Dog Society companion to deal with everyday challenges.

She got her first service dog at the age of 15, and depends on Kelly for everything from turning light switches on and off to answering the phone and retrieving items she might drop.

Kelly is an eight-year-old lab/retriever mix.

"She goes everywhere with me and it's illegal for people or businesses to deny her access," said Wilson. Wilson always carries the dog's PADS identification papers and a card explaining the law (Bill 47 -- 1990, The Guide Animal Act).

"The bus driver refused to look at it," said Wilson.

Wilson kept her cool. "Kelly knows my body language and when I'm stressed. She tries to give me eye contact to calm me down," said Wilson.

When the driver finally lowered the lift for Wilson's wheelchair, there wasn't enough room for the dog to enter at the same time. She handed the leash to her sister, who was with her.

The driver later claimed he was justified in refusing the dog access because technically, as Wilson boarded, she wasn't personally "handling" the dog.

Wilson said the driver continued to be argumentative, "hostile and combative," while they were on the bus.

"This is the first time I've ever had a big problem with my service dog," said Wilson, who has filed a complaint with TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company.

"I haven't heard back from anybody," said Wilson.

When The Vancouver Sun contacted Coast Mountain spokesman Derek Zabel, Zabel said: "PADS dogs are absolutely allowed on our system. This is an issue we are definitely going to have to follow up on with this operator. We will make sure they understand what our policy is."

Zabel said Coast Mountain takes all customer complaints seriously, but "complaints dealing with disabled passengers are priority one."

He said Coast Mountain works directly with drivers on a continuing basis to provide education and sensitivity training.

Said Wilson: "I just want to get the awareness out there that service dogs for the disabled are as professional as guide dogs are for the blind.

"And an apology would be nice."


Army dog and handler killed in Afghanistan

Posted Feb. 11, 2009

An army dog handler was killed with his animal after his unit came under enemy fire in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday.

The soldier was from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and attached to the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. He died on Thursday night after being attacked by insurgents while on a routine patrol from forward operating base Inkerman, in the Sangin area of Helmand province, the MoD said.

His explosives sniffer dog was also killed in the ambush, which wounded six other soldiers - five from 2 Para and one from 3 Para. One suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries and was being airlifted to the UK for further treatment. The other five were returning to duties.

"I would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of our fallen soldier," said spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, Royal Navy Captain Michael Finney.

His next of kin had been informed and the soldier was expected to be formally named today, the MoD said.

The death takes the number of British service personnel who have lost their lives in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November 2001 to 112.

On Tuesday weapons maintenance specialist Corporal Jason Barnes, 25, from Exeter, Devon, was killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand as he drove an ambulance back to base.

The growing Taliban-led insurgency is mainly concentrated in the south and east. However significant fighting is occurring in the west and central parts of Afghanistan. More than 2,600 people have died in insurgency-related violence there this year, according to Associated Press figures.

The Royal Army Veterinary Corps, based at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, is believed to have been involved in every army campaign since its formation in 1796. For its first 150 years horses were the main focus. But more recently dogs have come to play a crucial role in British military operations around the globe.


Another Army Dog Story:

Canadian Armed Forces Blogger: Sniffer dog revealed as longest serving member of Army in Afghanistan

Doogie, Olathe's arson dog, leaves a void

Posted Feb. 4, 2009

Arson dogs are tools, firefighters say, and Doogie the chocolate Lab was solid as steel.

He sniffed for accelerants for almost nine years, working more than 200 area fires without injury or illness.

But arson dogs are more than tools. They form bonds with their human trainers and touch emotions. When Doogie died suddenly last month, Olathe Fire Marshal Brad Henson held the dog's paw and sobbed. They had been together, at home and at work, since 2000.

Henson feels as if a family member died, he says, and fire departments no longer have the services of one of the few arson dogs in the area.

Doogie also had worked for federal authorities in the $5 million Schutte Lumber fire in 2003. Last week, Kansas City, Kan., firefighters wanted him to work a fire there, Henson said.

"It's hard to tell people that Doogie is not available," Henson said.

But a replacement may come soon. Henson is training a younger member of his canine family, a dog that detects explosives, to sniff accelerants.

Doogie was Henson's first working dog. He recently told how he and his wife became family for three large fire dogs.

In the spring of 2000, Henson and Doogie met and bonded in a five-week training program in rural Maine. They live together in a dorm room within a community for retired nuns and Catholic educators. There was one room with a TV that all shared, and no cable.

Doogie had been rescued from a pound, and Henson didn't know what to expect. He never had many dogs as a kid, but after getting interested in them as part of his training he applied for the department to the State Farm Insurance arson dog project.

It provided a trained dog for free and paid for Henson's travel and room and board during the training. The company has sponsored more than 250 arson dogs and handlers in 16 years, but experts say arson dogs are still far rarer than bomb dogs or attack dogs.

In the metropolitan area, the Kansas City police have one, as do the Overland Park Fire Department and the South Metropolitan Fire Protection District in Cass County.

Even as a rookie, Doogie took to the food-training technique and was soon a star. He got fed directly from Henson's hand only after the dog sniffed an accelerant and signaled by sitting down. Once every day, Henson poured a small amount of accelerant somewhere, let Doogie find it and then fed him.

The friendly dog hammed himself onto an insurance company promotional video before they left their Maine training ground. Then they boarded an airplane and Henson was amazed at his first flight with this unflappable dog.

"He got the window seat," said Henson, 43. "The stewardess gave him ice water. He got wings from the pilot."

Doogie's double life

Soon Doogie was being a pal to Henson and his wife, Leisa, in one life, and he was working charred ruins in another. Doogie had a home collar and a work collar, Henson said.

"When I grabbed that one collar, he knew it was time to get to work."

Arson dogs can detect minute traces of accelerants at fire scenes, which saves firefighters time and money in collecting and testing samples.

For 2007, national fire experts reported $733 million in property losses from arson, and State Farm Insurance says its dog program is intended to help reduce that.

Only four of eight dogs the insurance company trained for Missouri agencies are still active, a company spokesman said, and all six dogs it trained for Kansas have now retired or died.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also has a training program that has put out 488 bomb dogs and 188 arson dogs since 1991. Arson dogs are rare, an ATF spokesman said, and the bureau has about four of them in all of Missouri and Kansas.

In 2004, Henson bought an 8-week-old chocolate Lab named Remee and trained him to sniff explosives. He trained Remee by play reward.

The dog gets to play with a tennis ball every day after he finds hidden explosives. For this, a strongbox in Henson's truck holds a stick of dynamite and a bag of plastic explosives.

Each dog is different. Play reward was right for Remee but would not have worked for Doogie.

"Doogie wouldn't chase a tennis ball," Henson said. "He liked to swim, and he liked to sit and be petted."

In 2006, he was asked to take Don, a German shepherd attack dog also trained to sniff explosives. Don was about 4 years old and had served in the Middle East and on bomb checks for political visitors in various states, but the military was dumping him.

He had developed a slight vision problem, and he would be put to sleep unless someone took him.

"They didn't want a dog that didn't see straight," Henson said. "I didn't care if he could see straight. I just wanted him to smell."

He called Leisa. Take Don, she said.

Things evolved nicely. Doogie slept on the couch. Remee slept in bed with the humans, and Don slept on the bedroom floor. In the morning, Remee rode to work in the passenger seat of Henson's truck, while Doogie and Don shared a compartment in back.

A sad transition

In early January, the always healthy Doogie started showing signs of what Henson thought was arthritis and slight dementia.

"We retired him to give him time to enjoy his old age," he said. Doogie was about 13 years old.

Before long, however, he had trouble walking, and it seemed an operation might be needed. But on Jan. 22, the vet's staff called Henson.

An inoperable tumor had grown into Doogie's spine. Chemo or radiation might give him only another few weeks.

"I found all this out in a matter of about 10 minutes," Henson said.

There was only one thing to do.

"I kind of toughed it up and filled my pockets full of Kleenex," he said, and he held the unconscious dog's paw as Doogie was put to rest.

Since then, he said, the two other dogs have sensed that something is missing. They sometimes lie down where Doogie used to go. Doogie's collar hangs from the rearview mirror of Henson's truck, and Remee sometimes sniffs it.

"It's kind of neat. I know he's remembering what the smell is."

Henson has started training Remee to signal accelerants and thinks he will learn easily. Then Henson will take the dog through burned property to get him used to that.

On the Olathe fire station lawn last week, Henson gave Remee an early test. He poured some accelerant from a tube container, brought out the dog and yelled, "Seek!"

Remee searched, found the scent, sat down and looked at Henson in giddy expectation.

The handler threw a tennis ball. Remee bounded after it and romped back. They did it over and over until the green ball glistened with dog slobber.


Dogs help ATF with Super Bowl safety

Posted Feb. 1, 2009

Bomb detection task force is on the job

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has dispatched special officers to help prepare for a safe Super Bowl XLIII. Those called to service include ATF K-9 explosives detection teams. The K-9 units have been sent to Tampa from around the country.

ATF has used its explosives detecting canines at other special events including the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and the recent Presidential Inauguration or Barack Obama.

Dog teams are vital to local law enforcement officers and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have teams of military working dogs (MWD) that are used for patrol, drug and explosive detection, and specialized missions.

Give your working dog a pat on the head today and enjoy the Super Bowl!


Four Army dogs to aid Secret Service in guarding new president

Posted January 11, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama and family are said to be in the market for a dog to liven up the White House.

But there are already dogs in their near future: four Army dogs are being detached to the Secret Service to do crowd control duties before, during and after the Jan. 20 inauguration.

The dogs, from Fort Myer, Va., are experts in sniffing out bombs and taking down bad guys. Among them is Mike, a six-year-old Belgian Malinois.

Mike and his handler, Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Konrardy, have done presidential duty before. They spent Christmas at Camp David when President Bush was there.


War dog joins Fox Lake American Legion

Posted Jan. 1, 2009

Fox Lake's American Legion Post has a new member with four legs, a bite of about 1,200 pounds of pressure per square inch and a willingness to eat meat on a floor.

Dexter became the first military working dog to receive a membership card for American Legion Post 703 at a ceremony Wednesday. Post 703 Cmdr. Jerry Kandziorski said national Legion officials indicated it may well have been a first in the United States.

"He was a tried and true veteran," Kandziorski said. "He took his time in service and performed his duty. We think he deserves the recognition that should come to anybody."

Dexter is a Navy veteran who served in Iraq with his handler, Petty Officer 1st Class Kathleen Ellison. One of the 10-year-old German shepherd's heroic actions occurred in July 2004, when he detected explosives on the gas tank of a garbage truck that would have targeted a mess hall for U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

About 75 guests watched Dexter's membership ceremony at the Fox Lake American Legion hall, which was complete with an honor guard and invocation by Post 703 chaplain Bill Gordon.

Legion members came bearing gifts for Dexter as well. The canine was a little cool toward a giant bone with a "Welcome Home Dexter" note on it, but he went to town on a 2-pound steak he removed from a platter and ate on the floor.

Ellison, 45, an upstate New York native, said she was in Afghanistan when she recently received word her former partner was in jeopardy of being euthanized in Naples, Italy, because of deteriorating health.

"I said, 'Well, that is not going to happen. I'll be there in about three weeks to get him,' " said Ellison, who worked with Dexter until May 2005.

Ellison found the Save-a-Vet organization in Lindenhurst, which found Dexter's new home in Spring Grove. Launched by disabled veteran Danny Scheurer of Round Lake, the group rescues unwanted military and law-enforcement working dogs.

Scheurer said Dexter will live on a property with other retired military and law-enforcement canines where constant care is provided. He said the operation's owner prefers to be anonymous.

Using rest and relaxation time, Ellison left Afghanistan on Christmas Day and picked up Dexter in Naples on Monday. The pair landed Tuesday night in Milwaukee before the war dog's big day in Fox Lake.

Ellison said she hopes to visit Dexter after her service in Afghanistan ends in about a year. She said she knows he'll be in good hands at his new home in Spring Grove.

"You hope and pray that there's going to be a happy ending," Ellison said. "And there absolutely was. I can't ask for anything more."


Courthouse employees raise money for dog

Posted Dec. 13, 2008

Not many folks are having a good day when they're down there, save the anxious bride or someone claiming an inheritance.

It's a place of stress and sadness, confrontation and calamity.

But there's one creature, now convalescing from life-saving surgery, who can't wait to get back.

That's Chance, the courthouse dog and a minor celebrity, who had more than three feet of his small intestine removed last month and for whom courthouse figures are raising money for his care.

A bake sale last week raised $860 for the 10-year-old canine, who helps child victims in the most unspeakable circumstances gain the strength to testify in court and, secondarily, helps the courthouse crowd relieve their considerable stress.

Speaking of Chance's body of work was Catherine Babbitt, chief of the Bexar County District Attorney's Office family justice division: "You're (dealing with) kind of the worst things that a human being can do to children," she said. "To have one bright spot in an otherwise dark day is gold."

Or, in this case, a mellow 91-pound kerchief-wearing golden retriever who has been coming around for two years, since he was officially deputized.

Chance's hard luck and convalescence, including a Nov. 12 midnight ride to the vet after suffering a bowel obstruction that began with the consumption of an off-menu T-shirt, was followed closely in an e-mail vigil by the courthouse crew who have come to know him.

Harriett Wells, an assistant district attorney in the family justice division, also knew that his owner, Becky Snodgrass, a Texas Child Protective Services legal liaison, would never think to ask for money to cover the $5,000 or so bill for the veterinary fees. And so Wells helped roust the mountain of baked goods that was sold as a benefit last Wednesday outside the central jury room.

It is not just a feel-good effort, she said.

"This is a working dog," Wells said. "This is not just somebody's pet. He performs a valuable service, and everyone just wants to pitch in and to help out."

CPS supervisor Ada Gomez had helped Snodgrass in the early morning hours take Chance for his emergency surgery.

"We put sheets underneath him," she recalled. "I've never seen a dog in the process of dying, but that's what he looked like."

For his part, lazing on his dog bed at his home in Terrell Hills recently, Chance looks to be regaining his form and, expected to fully recover, Snodgrass said he'd return to regular duty soon.

Delia Carian, an associate judge in the child support court and a former prosecutor, spoke of one prosecution when a girl who had been raped didn't want to enter the courtroom, but for her visit with Chance.

"She said if the dog can do it," Carian said, "I can do it."


Pet Therapy Dog Brings Pleasure To The Elderly

Posted Dec. 12, 2008

He weighs less than 10 pounds and stands about 11 inches high, but make no mistake about Bromley: He is a working dog who impacts the lives of many.

A Maltese, Bromley is registered with the Delta Society, a leading international resource for the human-animal bond.

As part of his on-the-job responsibilities, Bromley and his owner, Joan Blumenfeld of Westport, routinely visit local nursing homes, where "Bromley works the room in grand style," reports Blumenfeld.

"He has kisses and hugs for everyone, he does tricks and he brings joy to a small group of six to eight frail elderly residents," she said. "He also charms the staffs and he absolutely brightens everyone's day."

As a professional geriatric care manager, Blumenfeld advocates for the elderly, coordinates their care and helps their families connect with quality eldercare resources. In addition to her eldercare counseling and consultation services, she has added pet therapy to her practice.

She and Bromley volunteer at a local nursing home and visit private clients at health-care centers, assisted living facilities and in their own homes, brightening the day for people in need of companionship.

The Delta Society evaluates and registers Pet Partner Teams of owners and well-trained pets that volunteer to visit health-care facilities and schools to enhance the quality of life for adults and children.

A registered Pet Partner Team, Bromley and Blumenfeld frequently visit elderly patients at The Carrolton Chronic and Convalescent Hospital in Fairfield.

The impact that Bromley has on the patients is immeasurable, according to Jackie Provost, recreation director and volunteer coordinator at The Carrolton.

"Joan and Bromley offer the residents quality time and continuity," she said. "The folks here really look forward to their visits. During their time here, the dog provides our residents with unconditional love, sensory input and the warmth and affection that petting an animal can provide."

The dog also provides a diversion for the patients, noted Blumenfeld. "Bromley is a bridge to human connection," she explained. "The elderly really connect to him. He is a catalyst in creating a group conversation. Often, the elderly, as a group, will discuss their medications or their aches and pains. Bromley opens the door to entirely new elements in their conversations."

He also triggers fond memories and a sense of nostalgia, added Provost. "The touch of home that the dog provides to our residence has no bounds," she said. "The joy he brings to people here is apparent. Their faces just light up when he enters the room. Bromley's visits make the them forget about their problems and their losses. It's almost like their worries vanish, at least temporarily.

"Often, Bromley's visits will bring up memories of dogs from our residents' pasts," she added. "He creates opportunities for social conversations."

The pint-sized pooch also helps Blumenfeld in her private practice.

"When the elderly connect to him, they will often connect to me," she said. "His presence helps me to introduce topics of discussion, such as 'What is a best friend?' "

His mere presence has a positive effect, she observes. "He calms people down just by being in the room," she said. "He also inspires feelings of acceptance and love."

"Bromley doesn't care if a person is handicapped or if their clothes are stained," she noted. "If you want to reach out and touch him, he's game. He's added loving quality to the work that I do.

"The elderly like him so much," she continued. "Sometimes they compete for his attention. They say things to me like, 'Look, he came up to me first!' or 'He likes me best!' A visit from Bromley really makes their day. It gives them relief from the day-to-day grind."

In addition to visiting hospitals and assisted living facilities, Bromley and Blumenfeld will make house calls. "We visit some patients weekly," she said.

"I got Bromley when he was only 11 weeks old," Blumenfeld said, "but I put him to work right away. He's calm, he's not aggressive and he is well-mannered. He really has a calling."

Not every dog can make it as a pet therapy dog, points out Sally Sizer, a licensed Delta evaluator and therapy-training instructor at Doggone Smart in Norwalk, where Bromley has taken classes. (His repertoire includes bowing, free-style dancing, spinning, shaking hands, sitting and staying.)

"The dogs in the Delta program have to be well-trained and gentle," Sizer emphasized. "They also have to be willing to be passed from lap to lap."


Raisers put puppies through the paces for Leader Dogs for the Blind program

Posted Oct. 31, 2008

Jake is just 5 months old, but he already is learning the skills he will need to help improve someone's life.

As he walked through the Decatur east Wal-Mart on Friday, Jake's constant companion, Mike Lawrence, pointed out some Elmo toys on a shelf. With a sniff, Jake dismissed the dolls as an unworthy distraction and plopped down on the floor to wait for Lawrence.

Jake, a German shepherd-Labrador retriever mix, was bred for the Leader Dogs for the Blind program, and when he's finished with his training, he will work as a guide dog for someone who is visually impaired.

It is Lawrence's job as a puppy raiser to see Jake through his puppyhood and get him ready for the situations he might encounter with his permanent owner. Trips to the store with carts whizzing by, animated Halloween displays and the smell of tasty treats wafting through the aisles are crucial in developing Jake's skills as a guide dog.

"We try to give as many experiences as they can, so when they're out with their visually impaired partner -- nothing is a surprise to them," said Janice White, Lawrence's puppy counselor through the program.

White, who lives in Pekin, has been a counselor for 10 years and is available for Lawrence if he has issues or questions. She sees each puppy in the area once a month. The dogs and their raisers go on monthly outings to museums, restaurants and other locations.

"They've (the dogs) got to learn to lie quietly under a table while dinner is being served and not dive for the French fry that the kid just threw," she said.

A puppy raiser must ensure that when the puppy returns to Leader Dogs, it knows everything it needs to proceed to the next level of its training. Each puppy must be comfortable around traffic and understand basic commands, White said.

"With Mike, he's one of those raisers you don't have to worry about," she said of Lawrence, who is on his seventh dog.

The dogs go to museums, restaurants, stores, street festivals and, ideally, almost everywhere with their puppy raisers.

"You're always looking for the opportunity of a good training situation for your puppy," White said.

She recently welcomed Lacy, the golden retriever puppy she raised last year, back into her home to give birth to her first litter. After going through her advanced training, Lacy was selected to breed for the organization because of her positive traits.

Lawrence used to live near the Leader Dogs for the Blind training school in Michigan. He said training puppies for the organization was something he had always wanted to do. Now a Findlay resident, he, his son, Jared, and their 5-year-old boxer named Buddy regularly open their home to the furry students.

After his sixth dog, Lawrence tried to take a break. He sent the puppy off to the school in February and was going to take a year off, but three months later, he called and got Jake.

"He's pretty laid-back," Lawrence said. "He's real interested in everything, but he's pretty laid-back."

At 12 or 13 months old, Jake will return to the school for advanced training. For now, his outings with Lawrence consist of getting used to the sights, smells, sounds and experiences of being out in public. He wears a special collar and a powder blue jacket to signify that he is a working dog in training.

"He works on praise," Lawrence said. "I try not to use treats too much."

Each dog Lawrence has brought into his home has its own personality and quirks, he said.

"He (Jake) tends to be a little shy at times, so we're trying to get him to be a little more comfortable," Lawrence said of the things the puppy still needs to work on. "That and picking up rocks."

White and Lawrence take the training very seriously, as the things they do for their puppies now could mean life-or-death situations for their future owners. One difficulty is trying to get through a trip out in public without having crowds of people asking to pet the puppies, they said.

"You want to educate the public, but yet, you've got to train that puppy, too," White said.

The dogs must remain in work mode so they can understand their future duties.

"You don't want them getting excited about it," Lawrence said. "You don't want them expecting to be petted or anything."


Dog handler James Stegmeyer works with Kamilka at the new Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Dog handler James Stegmeyer works with Kamilka at the new Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

New military veterinary hospital to treat dogs

Posted Oct. 22, 2008

A new $15 million veterinary hospital, complete with operating rooms and intensive care, officially opened here Tuesday, offering an advanced facility to treat military dogs that find bombs and aid patrols on the warfront.

Dogs working for all branches of the military and the Transportation Safety Administration, are trained at Lackland Air Force Base to find explosive devices, drugs and land mines. Some 2,500 are currently working with military units.

Like soldiers and Marines on the battlefront, military dogs suffer war wounds and routine health issues that need to be treated to ensure they can continue working.

Dogs injured in Iraq or Afghanistan get emergency medical treatment on the battlefield and are flown for care to Germany. If necessary, they'll fly on to San Antonio for more advanced treatment - much like wounded human personnel.

"We act as the Walter Reed of the veterinary world," said Army Col. Bob Vogelsang, hospital director. "If they can make it back here, they can usually go back to the fight" after treatment.

Before the new hospital, veterinarians were treating and rehabilitating dogs in a cramped 40-year-old building that opened in 1968, when the military was training dogs for work in Vietnam.

The hospital was already overstuffed by Sept. 11, 2001, but since then, demand for military working dogs has jumped dramatically. They're so short on the German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and Belgian malinoises that typically make working dogs, Lackland officials have begun breeding puppies at the base.

Lackland has nearly double the number of dogs in training, about 750, as it did before the Sept. 11 attacks, Vogelsang said.

To treat the trainees and injured working dogs, the new hospital includes operating rooms, digital radiography, CT scanning equipment, an intensive care unit and rehab rooms with an underwater treadmill and exercise balls. A row of kennels are marked "Recovery 1," "Recovery 2" and so on, while a behavioral specialist has an office near the lobby.

"This investment made sense ... and somehow, we were able to convince others," said retired Col. Larry Carpenter, who first heard complaints about the poor facilities in 1994 and later helped get the project launched.

Training a military working dog takes about four months. With demand outstripping the number of dogs available, the hospital and veterinary workers are trying to keep them healthy and working as long as possible, Vogelsang said.

Working dogs usually enter training at 1 1/2 - to 3-years-old, and most can work until they're about 10, he said. Then, the military tries to adopt them out, "station them at Fort Living Room," he said.


What Makes A Great Rescue Dog?

Posted Oct. 3, 2008

Rescue dogs are frequently used to aid in finding missing people, whether in avalanche areas or in the forest, since they have such a fine sense of smell. Just one dog can do the work of nearly two dozen rescue workers, by covering the same amount of ground in a fraction of the time and far more thoroughly. But how are these dogs chosen and what type of dog training do they go through?

The Selection Process

Most rescue dogs are chosen as puppies. The first selection is usually done around 2 months of age, but the puppies will be weeded out to select the best candidates again at one year, once they`ve matured a bit. While there are some specific breeds (German Shepherd, bloodhounds, etc.) that work better for this type of training, they still need to meet certain standards.

The qualities looked for in these puppies include the following:

Strong “prey” drive, the ability to hunt something for extended periods of time, which is useful when searching for lost hikers for several hours. A calm temperament. Excitable or nervous dogs rarely do well in the field and are not selected for training. Dog obedience. If a dog isn`t interested in following commands, it won`t be possible to control him in the field, which is essential for tracking. Puppy training begins once the dog has proven to fulfill all the requirements.

Training a Rescue Dog

The first step in training a young dog to track people is to lay the foundation. This basic puppy training is actually very similar to what any working dog would need to learn and once the puppy has mastered the basic skills, he is ready for more specialized training.

The foundation training includes socialization, desensitizing the dog to external distractions, dog obedience classes and barking on demand, among other things. These dogs also learn to follow hand signals, rather than simply voice commands. This makes it easier to direct a dog that is too far from its trainer to receive voice commands and also allows for silent work when needed.

Once the dog is adept at these skills, it`s time for more advanced puppy training that will prepare him for the real world of scents. One of the first things a puppy learns is to track by air, following a scent carried on the wind or simply lingering in the air. This is very important for areas that don`t hold a scent, such as river beds. The dog is also trained to track scents left on the ground.

To help train these dogs, they are often taken on courses where a person has laid a trail on purpose. The dog is given an object or item of clothing with the person`s scent and is allowed to smell it before casting for the scent in a specific area. In these cases, the person laying the trail will purposely cross roads, walk through water and double back, so the dog can learn to distinguish the true trail. Distractions are also provided, including other animals and people walking across the trail.

Since rescue work often requires the collection of evidence, particularly in the case of death, rescue dog training includes learning to point out objects dropped by the person they are tracking and to handle any evidence with care. The most common method of alerting their masters to the fact that they have found something of value is to bark.

These dogs participate in specialized rescue dog training and in most areas, are required to pass a tracking and ability test in order to become a certified rescue dog. They then need to be recertified every couple of years or so, depending on the area. They provide a very valuable service and are instrumental in the recovery of missing people every year.


Air Force spouse pushes for adoption of military working dogs

Posted Sept. 30, 2008

After 10 years working for the Air Force, Benny didn’t need a pension when it came time for him to retire last year from his job sniffing out illegal drugs — just a loving owner and some well-earned rest as a canine senior citizen.

But if not for a lucky telephone call to Langley Air Force Base, Va., on Nov. 29, the final reward for the German shepherd everyone called “the goofball” could have been grim.

Benny was scheduled for euthanasia by Christmas.

Instead, he has his loving new home, thanks to a determined Air Force spouse who is making it her mission to make sure other “Bennys” don’t slip through the cracks.

Congress passed a law in 2000 that allows military handlers, law enforcement officers and civilians to adopt the animals after they are declared “excess inventory.”

But when Debbie Kandoll, 50, began searching for an adoptable dog last year, it turned out to be much harder than she anticipated.

Kandoll’s husband, Capt. Michael Kandoll, is an Air Force Reserve Security Force officer.

“So I knew the name of the units these dogs would be under; I knew how to go through base operators, I knew rank structures and military procedures — and it was still a challenge,” Kandoll said.

At first, Kandoll thought her dog would have to be adopted from the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where all military working dogs are trained.

A board from the squadron meets monthly to approve all military dog adoption requests — 268 retired dogs were adopted in 2007, according to disposition coordinator Barbara Stadts.

However, the dogs themselves are adopted directly from the bases where they are retired — important information when it comes to military working dogs stationed at bases overseas, and retired from those posts, Kandoll said.

It took 20 telephone calls before Kandoll reached the kennel master at Langley, who gladly told her Benny was available, she said.

“The people who work with these dogs really care about them,” Kandoll said. “But we’re at war, and everyone is busy. They have to balance their love for the dogs, with the need to get the mission done.”

To help others interested in adopting their own “Benny,” Kandoll has launched, which includes phone numbers for 125 military working dog facilities and a step-by-step guide to the adoption application process.


Bomb-sniffing dog and his handler retire together from airport duty

Posted Sept. 28, 2009

Ned Heasty was supposed to retire three years ago.

Though he enjoyed his job as a Sacramento County sheriff's deputy, he was really looking forward to the next chapter: He and his wife would buy property in Baja, Mexico, and build a house.

For years, that was the plan, but then things changed. Instead of a 2005 retirement, Heasty, 61, will retire Thursday.

His departure was delayed because in 2002, a big dog that seemed to be all business walked into Heasty's life.

Heasty and Tyson, an 85-pound German shepherd, became a team, patrolling the Sacramento International Airport looking for explosive devices.

Tyson was the talent, a genius, really, when it came to subdividing scents. His incredible nose could sniff out the ingredients of a bomb better than any human contraption.

Heasty was simply there with the leash, marveling at his dog's work ethic, his seriousness, the abundance of loyalty, that unconditional love. It was all very humbling.

The two are together 24 hours a day.

"Ned and his dog are really committed to each other. That dog follows Ned around and watches everything he does," said the deputy's mother, Barbara Heasty of Citrus Heights.

As Heasty's original retirement target date crept nearer, this burly ol' dog was tugging at his heart.

It had been that way since the second week of training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, when Tyson would be looking for Heasty and Heasty couldn't wait to get to the kennel to get his dog. It wouldn't be long before he would put those Baja plans on hold.

Ned Heasty realized that if he retired, he would have to turn Tyson over to another handler when the dog was in its prime. The impeccable pedigree combined with intensive training makes Tyson worth about $50,000.

Besides, his mother and wife and practically everyone else who got to know Tyson were ready to put the kibosh on giving up the dog.

So no one was startled when Heasty one day made an extraordinary announcement. He informed his superiors that he wanted to work three more years and go out when Tyson was ready to call it quits, too.

By then, Tyson would be 8 and ready to slow down.

"Ned told me, 'This dog is so full of energy that I want to see it through,' " recalled Lt. Paul Tassone, a supervisor with the Sheriff's Department's airport division. "He could have retired, and instead he stayed on board."

"I would have been very depressed if I had to send him back to the kennels and he was assigned to someone else," said Heasty, looking over at Tyson as the dog rested under an office desk at the airport. "To have to say goodbye to this dog would have been very tough. I spend more time with him than I do with my wife – and she has pointed that out."

Dena Heasty, a retired elementary schoolteacher, understood right away.

"You're never going to be able to give him back," she said. "It would be like reading a really good book and not having the last chapter."

Turns out, a spinal condition sped the process for Tyson. The dog now works doubly hard to stretch and stoop and stand on his hind legs during his workday.

Heasty and Tyson have scoured the airport and the aircraft for signs of explosive devices. Their ability to get it right every time has been a matter of life and death.

In order to keep the dog sharp, Heasty would routinely hide something that contained the scent of explosives. When Tyson sniffed it out, the dog got to play with his Kong – a big chunk of hard rubber.

"I really enjoyed what I was doing. I got to come to work every day and try to outsmart this dog," Heasty said.

Those who worked around the airport loved to see Tyson. Passengers would stop and watch and point and smile. Heasty noticed that everyone seemed to know Tyson, but few knew the deputy by name.

The first member of the Sheriff's Department's Canine Explosive Detection Team was a mixed-breed dog named Runway. Once a stray, Runway became something of a celebrity and never missed a day from Sept. 10, 2001, her first day, until she retired last May at age 10.

Her handler, Deputy Larry Berwick, was so attached to the dog that he remained in the airport detail but opted not to get another working dog.

By the time Heasty was paired with Tyson, he and his wife already had a dog, an aging Labrador retriever named McGee. Whereas Tyson is a one-man dog, McGee loves everybody. Tyson is fearless. McGee is afraid of his shadow.

Tyson and Heasty didn't hit it off right away. Typical of German shepherds, the dog was aloof to a stranger.

"I was disappointed at first," Heasty said.

In retirement, Tyson will likely go through an adjustment period. Even with his aching back, the dog still loves to work. On walks, he can soon sniff for sniffing's sake. He'll get treats for the first time in his life.

At the farewell gathering Thursday, Tyson will wonder what all the fuss is about and why everyone is scratching his head more than normal, why folks keep telling him how wonderful he is.

Tyson is a product of operant conditioning – when he does something good, he's rewarded. He understands nothing about how Heasty put off retirement.

But he knows they will be together tomorrow and the day after that. To this dog, that's what matters most.


Toy Recall:Four Paws Rough & Rugged Pimple Ball with Bell

Four Paws is deeply concerned about reports of injuries suffered by some dogs as a result of a manufacturing defect in some of its Pimple Ball with Bell toys. We have stopped shipping the toys to our distributors and asked them to have retailers remove the toys from their shelves immediately and return them at Four Paws expense.

In addition, we have halted shipments of the toys from the manufacturer and we are sending Executive Vice President Barry Askin to personally inspect the manufacturer's facility in order to make sure that the defect has been corrected.

Four Paws is also changing the packaging of its Pimple Balls with Bells to make it easier to inspect them for potential defects and we are individually inspecting every one of the toys in inventory in order to identify any that may be defective.

Consumers who have purchased one of the toys identified by the UPC listed below, should immediately take the toy away from their pet. You may return the Pimple Ball with Bell for replacement to the address listed below. Should you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 1-800-835-0909.

Item Number: 20220

Description: Pimple Ball with Bell, 2"

UPC Code: 0 45663 20220 0

Item Number: 20225

Description: Pimple Ball with Bell, 2 1/2"

UPC Code: 0 45663 20225 5

Item Number: 20227

Description: Pimple Ball with Bell, 2 3/4"

UPC Code: 0 45663 20227 9

Item Number: 20325

Description: Teaser Ball with Bell, 2 1/2"

UPC Code: 0 45663 20325 2

Item Number: 20326

Description: Teaser Ball with Bell, 2 3/4"

UPC Code: 0 45663 20326 9

Item Number: 21317

Description: Dumbbell with Bells, 1 3/4"

UPC Code: 0 45663 21317 6

Item Number: 21325

Description: Dumbbell with Bells, 2 "

UPC Code: 0 45663 21325 1

Item Number: 21708

Description: Dental Dumbell

UPC Code: 0 45663 21708 2

Item Number: 21995

Description: Rough and Rugged Fun Bag (3 pieces)

UPC Code: 0 45663 21995 6

Consumer Returns:

Four Paws Products

Pimple Ball with Bell Return

50 Wireless Blvd.

Hauppauge, NY 11788

Sit Stay Read

Sit Stay Read is a program that helps kids improve their reading skills by getting them to read out loud to dogs. They currently operate only in Chicago but would like to spread out to many other cities.

Go to the website to meet the dogs, donate and shop for a good cause.

Theapy Dog Training

Posted Sept. 20, 2008

Indy, the black, curly-coated retriever, has seen it all - it's part of his training.

He and his owner Roger Niccoli frequently find themselves at critical moments in people's lives.

There was a man with multiple amputations, who requested only that Indy sit next to him in his hospital bed while he ate a cheeseburger and fries and watched TV. He wouldn't talk to the dog or pet him - he just wanted Indy there. Every afternoon that they were scheduled to meet, there would be a cheeseburger and fries waiting for Indy, too.

On Saturday, Sept. 13, Niccoli, who lives in Arcadia, brought Indy to the West Covina Library to talk about Niccoli's work as a tester and observer for therapy dogs.

Niccoli works for Therapy Dogs, Inc., a national organization based in Cheyenne, Wyo., that certifies and insures more than 10,000 dogs who visit the sick, the elderly, the young and veterans.

"It's a whole kind of culture," Niccoli said. "Every major hospital has a therapy program."

Niccoli started getting interested in therapy dogs when he was watching footage at Ground Zero in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He knew then that he wanted to train a working dog - but he wanted to keep his day job as a financial consultant for First Bank.

Niccoli decided then that training a law enforcement dog or a search-and-rescue dog was out. But he became interested in - and maybe obsessed with - therapy dogs.

Niccoli tried to find out everything he could about therapy dogs, and finally he got Indy with the idea of training him as a therapy dog. He stood in front of malls and encouraged Indy to interact with strangers.

"I asked people `Please pet my dog, please pet my dog,"' Niccoli said. "Now he'd rather be with people than with other dogs."

In this way, Indy was able to prepare for his work and get used to all sorts of people - including people in pain or screaming children or children who tug at his ears.

Niccoli became so interested in the work of therapy dogs that he decided to get involved in training and certifying dogs himself.

Now he certifies 10 to 12 dogs per year around the San Gabriel Valley. Niccoli brings them and their owners around hospitals to train the dogs to be calm, consistent and obedient as they visit people in hospital rooms and community centers.

Indy's career has taken off, too. In just six years, he has had a storied career that has taken him beyond the bounds of the average therapy dog. He has visited hospitals and veterans all around Southern California, but he has also acted in the upcoming movie, "The Mechanic." He also has been featured in a book about working dogs called "K9s are Human, Too."

Niccoli said that through it all, he is constantly amazed at the way people respond to his dog, whether they are sick, dying, learning to walk for the first time or regaining motor skills after being injured. There have been patients who have requested Indy's presence at their death.

"Every therapy dog has these kind of stories," Niccoli said. "I'm just the extension of the leash."


Guide dogs doing well at Beijing Paralympics

Posted Sept. 13, 2008

An official with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said here on Friday that some delegations and athletes have brought guide dogs to the ongoing Beijing Paralympic Games, and so far there has been no complaint about any inconvenience.

David Grevemberg, IPC executive director of Sport and IF Relations, said at a press conference that the guide dogs brought by the delegations and athletes to the Beijing Paralympics have entered China smoothly, and have received nice care during their stay in the Paralympic Village.

"It is also important and spectacular to see some athletes walking with guide dogs at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympic Games," Grevemberg said, adding that an atmosphere should be fostered to encourage the disabled people to mobilize themselves independently.

Wang Wei, executive vice president and secretary-general of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games, said at the same press conference that the Chinese government has paid much attention to improving accessibility for the disabled, including the guide dog issue.

China amended its law on protection of the people with disabilities in April this year. The newly-amended law stipulates that guide dogs for the disabled people are allowed in public places as long as their owners observe relevant rules.

China's first center to train hearing dogs for deaf people will be set up at Beijing Union University with financial support from Samsung, an official partner of the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, according to a Thursday announcement from the firm.

Hearing dogs are trained to distinguish between different types of sounds, such as telephone rings, a knock at the door or a fire alarm. They then touch a special part of their owner's body to indicate the particular sound.


Portion of sales from will go toward developing service dogs

Posted Sept. 3, 2008

An organization that trains dogs in Canada to help autistic children is about to get a boost.

The Wag Inc., a London-based Internet company that sells leather accessories for dogs, has launched a campaign to raise money for National Service Dogs, a charity based in Cambridge.

The Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation in the United States will also benefit from the year-long campaign.

For every item sold, the Wag Inc. will donate $2 to each organization, said Tibor Hattayer, its president.

His love of dogs -- he's an owner and breeder of German shepherds -- and his appreciation for people with autism led him to a similar campaign with National Service Dogs back in 2004, and now this one.

He has worked with children and adults with autism through Community Living London for 17 years and has witnessed first-hand the difference service dogs can make in the lives of autistic children.

Raising money for service-dog organizations through the sale of dog accessories was a natural fit, he said.

Hattayer said he wants to get other businesses involved.

"I can't do that all on my own," he said.

"We intend to inspire companies, especially companies that value that human-dog relationship, to come on board."

Service dogs help autistic children in areas of safety, social bonding and self-control.

To find out more about the company, go to

According to its website, National Service Dogs in 1996 became the world's only known facility designed to link service dogs to autistic children as a way of keeping the kids from "bolting into unsafe environments."

The service dogs, the group says, were certified, thus allowing an autistic child to attend school or other public places with the dog. For more, go to


Inmates train service dogs for injured vets

Posted August 15, 2008

Tyler Wilson met his new best friend Thursday.

Wilson, a 24-year-old retired Army corporal from Denver, Colo., who is paralyzed from the waist down, came to the Northeastern Correctional Center last week to meet his service dog, Antoine, and Edward Chapman, the inmate who trained the 2-year-old golden retriever/poodle mix.

The two men sat and talked, with Antoine lying on the ground, his head resting between four feet.

“Anything you need to know, I will help you with,” Chapman told Wilson. “This guy is just so smart; he learns so quick,” the inmate said about the dog he said taught him to be a better father and a better person.

The National Education for Assistance Dog Services, known as NEADS, provides assistance dogs to injured veterans through the Canines for Combat Veterans program. NEADS Executive Director Sheila O’Brien said the program is in response to the tens of thousands of wounded veterans returning from the current conflict and changing the demographic of the disabled population.

“This is a new, young disabled population unlike any we have ever known,” she said, noting medical advances have helped save lives that would have been lost during one of the World Wars or Vietnam. “They’re athletes. They’re young, and they don’t want canes or wheelchairs. They want dogs.”

Wilson was shot three times in May 2005 while serving in Afghanistan. He still has one of the bullets in his back.

“One second, your life is one way, and the next second it is another,” said Wilson, who heard about Canines for Combat Veterans though the Army’s Wounded Warrior program. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You play the cards you are dealt.”

Chapman was delighted to provide Wilson with an ace in the hole — Antoine.

“I’m very happy because I know he’s serving a good purpose,” Chapman said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Wilson said he is essentially independent, except for his sister, who is staying with him while she is in school. He expects Antoine will help him by fetching things and picking up what he has dropped.

“His personality alone is enough to change anyone’s life,” he said. “Just the little things he can help me with. Opening doors, retrieving objects; things like that because of what has happened to me and stuff.”

At Northeastern Correctional Center, a minimum/pre-release security facility in Concord, inmates known for good behavior can become trainers through the NEADS Prison Pup Partnership. The inmates are with the dogs all day, every day.

“It’s almost like a newborn child,” NCC Superintendent Paul Ruane said.

And Chapman beamed like a proud father as he sat and talked with Wilson.

“I’m happy that [Antoine] has the chance to make a difference. I hope he serves him well,” Chapman said.

Fellow inmate dog-trainer Girard Davis did a demonstration of some of the skills his dog, Raison, has learned so far. The young pup sat, stayed, hopped onto a table and turned on the lights as Davis made commands and patted Raison’s nose.

“The program has really been a blessing in so many ways,” Davis said. “It gives you character. It gives you a chance to be reborn as a better person. It gives you a chance to help your community instead of hurting it.”

Antoine is able to turn lights on and off, retrieve things and throw them away, and even remove socks. The training was hard work, but for Chapman, it was worth it.

“It makes us better people,” he said of the Prison Pup Partnership. “I’m 55, and like I said, you’re never too old to learn.”


Cadaver dogs search for missing woman

Posted August 5, 2008

All last week humans searched the northern end of Lake Nacogdoches and its shorelines for Torchie Boyd. Monday they returned, but this time with cadaver dogs. Boyd disappeared after her boyfriend's body was found following an apparent suicide.

A couple of Catahoolas, a German Shepherd and a Doberman Pincher jumped out of their kennels. Cadaver dogs come in all breeds. It's the training that makes the difference. More than a year's worth is needed for certification. Dog handler Ja'na Bickel said of her dog, Bella, " She worked the Katrina floods probably four times and found probably ten people there. " The dogs come from K-9's Search and Recovery from the Woodlands.

The search began early this morning to beat the scorching august sun. Nevertheless, precautions are taken. Bickel warns to, " Every 15 minutes break 'em. " Recent rains helped trailing conditions for a parameter that covered about 50 acres in all. Investigator, Bill Ball told the search crew, " Go from the road all the way to the high line. " Attempts were made to follow a trail possibly taken by Ernest Young, the last person Boyd was seen with before her disappearance. His body was found about five miles away near Goodman Bridge. Game warden Jim Yetter said, " We worked the trails where he would have crossed the creek and along the shoreline, those areas, so from the house we've checked 1/2 mile out in the direction of travel, 1/2 mile out and a mile wide. "

After a couple of hours of searching the dogs and handlers returned to J & S Campground. The heat was setting in, but no one was giving up. " We'll let them rest a few minutes and then go back out there," said Bickel. She and others returned dirtier and sweatier after trekking through the the dense brush.

After the rest the handlers took the dogs back to a nearby oil pit. It was a place where the dogs gave an alert. Game wardens dragged the oily water, about three foot deep, but snagged nothing. The dog's scent abilities are so strong they can detect a body even when it's underwater. The handlers are confident in the dogs. "If the woman is out there, the dogs will find her," said Bickel. The dogs were taken back to the area later in the day. They boarded boats to see if they could detect any scents coming from the lake itself, but for now the whereabouts of Torchie Boyd remain a mystery.


Xylitol Toxic To Dogs

Xylitol, A sugar substitute found in a variety of sugar-free and dietetic cookies, mints and chewing gum is proving highly toxic, even fatal, to snack-snatching dogs.


It's a dog's life for retired sniffers

Posted August 4, 2008

Lyka sits patiently as her handlers fuss over her, drawing the attention of passersby at the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad's building near the police commissionerate. Like most of the sniffer dogs here, she has spent her entire life working with the department, detecting explosives. But when Lyka retires in a couple of years, she will be at the mercy of the police department.

Unlike Kerala and West Bengal which have retirement plans in place for elephants and horses employed by them, Maharashtra has no such plan for police dogs. It is the bond between the sniffer dogs and their handlers in the bomb squad that ensures they are not thrown out on the streets. Such dogs are accommodated in the existing kennels in the building and the expenses on their food and medical treatment is drawn from the budget allocated for working dogs.

"A sniffer dog's life is insured for a mere Rs 10,000. The government has no post-retirement programme for them and the existing kennels would soon fall short of requirements,'' an officer said.

In West Bengal, there's a welfare programme for horses retired from the police training college. It's like an indirect pension from the government where the horses are checked into a shelter outside Kolkata run by Maneka Gandhi's People for Animals. While the police pay for the food, the shelter takes care of the horses.

Earlier this year, the Kerala government opened a retirement home for elderly elephants (used for logging or in temples) over 1,000 acres of woodland in Kottur. The home buys old elephants for a nominal sum from owners who cannot or will not look after them properly. The elephants have their personal pens, are fed, watered, bathed and massaged with pumice stones and coconuts husks by dedicated mahouts.

In the absence of such schemes here, bomb squad officers in Mumbai propose to put the sniffer dogs up for adoption after retirement. "A panel would be formed comprising a bomb squad officer, the deputy commissioner of police (protection) and representatives of animal welfare organisations. They would quiz all applicants on exactly how they intend to look after the dogs. Only those who come up with satisfactory answers will be shortlisted. We want to ensure that the retired dogs are not put to work all over again,'' an officer said.

Police officials say that older sniffer dogs make perfect pets for households as they are trained to follow instructions and are even capable of living alone at times. Besides, they are friendly and can serve as excellent watch dogs for senior citizens.

Colonel J Khanna of the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, however, has a word of caution for the cops. "Police sniffer dogs should ideally be sent to an old-age shelter or to an agricultural farm outside Mumbai . Adoption is not advisable because they would seldom take instructions from anyone except their handler. Besides, they have to be fed a proteinrich diet costing up to Rs 5,000 a month, which an average person may not be able to afford ,'' Khanna said.

"Sniffer dogs have to be fed thrice a day and their diet needs to be rich in protein. For example, Lia and Caesar (two bomb squad dogs) prefer fruit slices, especially apples, for breakfast. Lunch and evening meals comprise 1 kg mutton, milk, bread and chopped vegetables . The dogs are also walked around in an open ground like the police gymkhana at Marine Lines everyday. Adequate rest is equally important,'' an officer said.

While an ordinary dog lives for 15-18 years, the lifespan of sniffer dogs is only 10-12 years due to the nature of their work. Guidelines laid down by the state government prohibit the mating of sniffer dogs. Bomb squad officers also admit that the nature of work takes a greater toll on female dogs as compared to the males.

Health concerns

Rambo, a German Shepherd with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Don, a Labrador retriever with the bomb squad and Rana, a Doberman Pinscher with the crime branch were admitted to the Bai Sakarbai Petit Charitable Trust (BSPCT) veterinary hospital at Parel a month ago after they had health problems.


Seizure assist dog helps woman lead normal life

Posted July 30, 2008

When Gillian Lawrence commutes to work in the morning, she is accompanied to the office by a very special dog.

Quincy is a seizure assist dog, trained to get help when Gillian has a seizure.

She can even sense when Gillian is about to have an epileptic attack.

"If I've been standing up somewhere and if she starts to whine or bark or just keep making noise that would get me to sit down," said Lawrence, who suffers from Epilepsy.

For years, debilitating seizures made it impossible for Gillian to work and take part in many activities.

"They were all day everyday, maybe about sixty or seventy a day."

Now she works a full time job with Quincy always by her side.

When they are just puppies these dogs begin the specialized training to assist people with Epilepsy.

"Things like removing dangerous objects from around the person so once they're in their seizure they're not banging their head or body against something sharp or dangerous," said Shawn Laari of the B.C. Epilepsy Society.

"They can block access to a dangerous area like a stairwell," he said.

After a seizure, they can be a calming presence and give peace of mind.

"Family members don't have to be there every waking second to attend to their needs because the dog has proven itself to be equally if not a better predictor and protector of that family member," said Laari.

In the U.S. there are several organizations that train these dogs. But in Canada, there is just the Lions Foundation in Ontario.

"Like any charitable organization, there are cost limitations and that's what we're stuck with right now," said Laari. "It would be good if we could get a training dog organization in western Canada to do that."

Gillian says she hopes more dogs will be trained to help others like her.

"For me to get my life back, she's given me a job, she's helped me in regards to do public speaking, she helped me to start educating people."

The dog also provides Gillian with a unique friendship.

"It's just such a blessing to have her," she said.


New breed of assistance dogs hone skills, including "'scent-abilities"

Posted July 29, 2008

Eight-year-old Cieran Boyle is about to get his first friend, a sturdy pointer assistance dog named Denver.

But Denver won't be helping him cross streets, open doors or turn the lights off, as do many service dogs. He'll be detecting subtle changes in Cieran's body odor that predict he is about to have a seizure.

Denver's training is an example of how today's service dogs are being prepared in new ways to assist people.

Some organizations train dogs to help children who have autism. The dog can be tethered to a child, preventing the child from wandering or getting into harm's way.

Other organizations train seizure response dogs, who get help when someone has had a seizure.

Some dogs, including some hounds and pointers, have very heightened "scent ability," said Liz North, a master instructor at Pawsabilities Unleashed.

"When a child seizes, it stresses the body," said North, a former U.S. Air Force K-9 unit trainer.

North said the onset of a seizure increases a child's adrenaline output and changes the smell of the child's sweat. So she asked the Boyles to save the clothes Cieran was wearing last time he had a seizure, and she used those to train Denver.

Because of a severe form of epilepsy caused by a disorder called Dravet syndrome, Cieran's development stopped at about 18 months. He doesn't talk, is tube-fed, and the right side of his body is impaired.

He can't play games with his brother Teagin, 6, or other children his age. And he spends much of his time in a Cieran-proofed basement room that is a combination bedroom, playroom and family room.

Although Cieran can't say he is lonely, his mother, Jessica Boyle, thinks he must be, and she hopes Denver will be a companion for her son.

"For six years, I've been looking for a service dog for Cieran," she said. "I've literally called every organization that had service dogs for children."

She found that most assistance dog organizations won't train a dog to serve anyone younger than 14. And most dogs trained to help people who have seizure disorders respond only after the seizure has started.

Boyle and her husband, Noel, a Grand Valley State University instructor, want to be alerted before Cieran has a seizure.

In Internet chat rooms for families dealing with Dravet syndrome, the Northeast Grand Rapids couple learned some seizure alert dogs such as Denver are being trained in the nonprofit Pawsabilities Unleashed pet therapy center in Kentucky.

The Boyles have paid the $3,000 dog-training fee and went to Kentucky this month to be trained as Denver's handlers.

A common sight

Assistance dogs are commonplace in West Michigan, where many families have raised puppies to be trained by Moline-based Paws With a Cause. Area residents also are used to seeing dogs assist people who are blind, hearing impaired or have physical challenges.

Grand Rapids resident Josee Slack, 73, who is severely hearing impaired, has a Paws With a Cause dog, a Lab-golden retriever mix dog named Opie. The dog tells her when the phone or doorbell rings, when the smoke alarm goes off and when someone is in her house.

Laura York, of Lowell, got Ladd, her third service dog, from a national organization called Canine Companions. The 36-year-old speech therapist has cerebral palsy and uses a power chair. She needs Ladd, a black Labrador retriever, to open doors for her, turn lights on and off, and pick up things she drops. Ladd also will bark to alert someone if York falls.

Kelly McNeela, 37, of Belmont, has multiple sclerosis and uses a power chair. She had to wait two years to get Nori, a yellow Lab-golden retriever, from Paws With A Cause. That's because she and her husband, Brian, and daughter Rylee, 9, have a family dog they didn't want to part with, and service dogs can't be placed in a home with a family dog younger than 10 years old.

Now while the 13-year-old family dog sleeps, Nori helps McNeela.

"She's a really good dog with a great temperament. I get a lot more exercise with her," said McNeela, who can go outside with Nori tethered to her chair. "And if I say 'Help,' she pulls a cord to an alarm and security system that summons help," she said.

Brian McNeela says having Nori has brought him peace of mind.

"It allows me to work and not worry about my wife so much," he said.


"Scent-ability" can be nurtured and groomed, says Joan Skluzacek, of Minnesota, founder of the Idea League, a Web site for Dravet syndrome families such as the Boyles. Her family's 4-year-old Vizsla hound alerts her when her son, Nicholas, 15, is going to have a seizure.

"Ruby sleeps with him and wakes us up at night if he's going to have a seizure. We don't want him to fall and hurt himself," Skluzacek said.

If Denver can do that, it will be a big help to the Boyles, who have been through years of "roller coaster" medical emergencies, Jessica Boyle said.

Their son's seizures, which began when he was 6 months old, were so severe and life-threatening he has had half of his brain surgically removed.

"That has stopped the big, bad seizures that put him in intensive care," Cieran's mother said, but he still has small seizures and needs to be monitored.

That means her husband sleeps with Cieran.

"I am hoping Denver will sleep with Cieran so my husband can come back to my bed," she said.

While most service dog training organizations are nonprofit, it costs a lot to train a dog.

The Boyles had to raise the $3,000 fee for Denver themselves. But Andrew Gommeson, 29, a Howard City man with cerebral palsy, paid nothing for his female golden retriever/Lab mix, Lindy.

"Canine Companions said they put $10,000 into training the dog," Gommeson said. "But for me, it only cost about $100 for the training materials. The rest was absorbed by donations."

Service dogs attract people wherever they go, their owners say.

"Everyone seems to know someone who has raised a Paws With a Cause puppy," McNeela said, adding they often chat with her about their experience.

Gommeson said his dog makes people more likely to approach and talk to him, especially young women.

"When girls ask me, 'Can I have your dog?' I always say, 'It's a package deal. You have to take me, too,'" he said. "One of these days, someone will take me up on it."


Ceremony recognizes military working dog's contributions, achievements

Posted April 23, 2009

Military working dog teams from throughout Victory Base Complex came out April 13 for a ceremony at the division chapel to honor one of their own. Kevin, a military working dog, passed away due to complications from cancer. His death was unexpected and left the other half of his team, Staff Sgt. Aaron Meier, in limbo and in mourning.

While in theater, military working dogs are not replaced, so Meier will be reassigned to other duties for the remainder of his deployment. As Meier now turns his attention to new job responsibilities, most of his focus still remains on the loyal partner and friend he lost.

“Kevin was the highlight of my day,” said Meier, a military dog handler, from Fairmont, Minn., assigned to Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.

For more than four years, Meier and Kevin built an excellent working relationship together. “Kevin was a great patrol explosive detector dog,” said Meier. “I could flip his on and off switch easily because of all the training we did together.”

During their course of working together, the relationship developed further and formed a powerful, personal bond between them. “I was planning on adopting Kevin after this deployment,” said Meier. “This was his last time deploying because of his age.”

Though he never got to adopt him, Meier and Kevin still had many unforgettable moments together. “I pampered him a lot because a happy dog works better.” Meier recalled the first time he gave Kevin a pillow to rest his head when they were together in a hotel preparing for a Secret Service mission. “Kevin had many human characteristics,” Meier added.

Kevin’s traits will always stick out in the minds of those who knew him. “He was very protective of Sgt. Meier,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Jasper, kennel master at Camp Liberty, DSTB, 1st Cav. Div. “Besides being a great detection and patrol dog, he was good for law enforcement purposes.”

As one of the first dogs to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kevin’s achievements were acknowledged during the ceremony. There were poems read in his honor, Taps was played by a 1st Cav. Div. trumpeter and military working dog teams left snacks in Kevin’s bowl as a tribute to his service. “It is appropriate to honor their service,” said Lt. Col. Barbara Sherer, from Springfield, Mo., 1st Cav. Div. command chaplain and co-coordinator of the ceremony. “Military working dogs are an important part of the military team and sometimes they are taken for granted.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Staff Sgt. Jasper, “We consider dogs to be Soldiers too, they are constantly working.” The ceremony gives credit to all the dogs and all the work they do here and in the United States, he added.

Military working dog teams are called upon often to perform their duties, so there is rarely a chance for teams from the different camps to see each other. Kevin afforded each team the opportunity to see in each other more of the common ground they share.

As Kevin’s life, the attachment Meier had with him and the work they accomplished together were celebrated, new bonds formed among the Soldiers. They realized more the value of their military working dog teams and appreciated the chance for one of their own to be recognized.


Bark Back

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Buck d. Anderson dog handler in Vietnam central highlands. The grunts would carry extra water food I could ca extra ammo. Sure miss him Kia I'm 65 living yesterday every da taking care of Hollywood thinking of king. My true buddy out here.g

    • suepogson profile image


      5 years ago

      Some really heartwarming stories here, Thank you. More comment areas are needed, perhaps after each module.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      One of my friends with work dogs, and he a eye dogs since he is blind.

    • ArdenBaird LM profile imageAUTHOR

      ArdenBaird LM 

      7 years ago

      @LisaDH: As of Dec. 20, 2010 Pepsi was still not allowed into the school. This may have changed but I couldn't find any later stories about it.

    • LisaDH profile image


      7 years ago

      Love this lens! I agree with your comment about the Afghan hero dog who was euthanized -- why wasn't she microchipped? And whatever happened to the boy with autism in FL? I wonder if the school officials finally allowed him to bring his dog.

    • ArdenBaird LM profile imageAUTHOR

      ArdenBaird LM 

      7 years ago

      @James43302: Life with a dog isn't for everyone. I puppy raise hearing dogs and I am also going deaf. I'm not sure that I will want a dog when my hearing gets bad enough for me to qualify for one. I love having the puppies with me all the time but I know that I will get a break every few months. If I had my own dog there would be no breaks.

    • James43302 profile image


      7 years ago

      I have two friends with work dogs. Both of them have seeing eye dogs since they are blind/VI. I myself and my wife are also. My wife has tried having one but it didn't work out to well. Thanks for sharing. :)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)