You know how much I love animals. So it is with particular pride and pleasure that I share that this week, American Humane, in conjunction with renowned philanthropist/veterans advocate Lois Pope, presented the K-9 Medal of Courage—the nation’s highest honor for military dogs—to four courageous canines at a special awards ceremony on Capitol Hill. The stories behind these four military dogs—and their incredible bond with their human partners—are remarkable. For example, Jag is a 12-year-old Labrador who served in the U.S. Army as a Specialized Search Dog (SSD) for seven years, helping sniff out hidden weapons caches and deadly improvised explosives devices.
Jag met retired Army Sergeant Dennis Dow more than a decade ago, when they were paired together on the first day of Specialized Search Dog (SSD) training. With at his side, Jag learned to detect deadly explosive devices and identify other threats to his Army platoon.
The pair deployed to Afghanistan and Germany, where Jag worked to locate lethal bombs and other security threats. On their very first mission together, Jag sniffed out a hidden weapons cache of artillery rounds, alerting Dow of the immediate danger. His tireless bravery and keen sense of detection was put to the test during thousands of searches and hundreds of missions… but Jag tirelessly defended his fellow comrades. Jag served an important purpose off the battlefield too, boosting morale and bringing comfort to brave soldiers fighting far away from home.
Jag, now twelve, retired in 2013 after seven years of courageous military service—that’s almost five decades in dog years. Dow was thrilled to adopt his best friend and former battle buddy when Jag retired, welcoming him into his family. Today the pair volunteer at their local fire department, helping provide comfort to the community after fires and other tragic incidents.
Taba, a nine-year-old Dutch Shepherd who searched for explosive devices and participated in countless raids during her service as an Army Special Forces Multi-Purpose Canine.
Taba served as a Special Forces Multi-Purpose Canine specializing in explosives detection, patrol, and tracking during her two years of service. The nine-year-old Dutch Shepherd was adept at locating deadly IEDs and bravely participated in countless raids during a deployment to Afghanistan.
Upon Taba’s return from service, she was adopted by a former K-9 police dog handler and his family, who affectionately refer to her as their “baby.” As the family helped Taba adjust to retirement, a previous injury in the K-9’s rear leg began to flare up, eventually requiring amputation. Taba is healing from the recent surgery and is currently living out the rest of her days free of pain, just as she deserves.
Summer, a seven-year-old Labrador Retriever, courageously served as an Explosives Specialized Search Dog with the U.S. Marines Corps, conducting routine patrols, finding numerous weapon caches and IEDs, clearing routes and coming under fire several times during her years of service.
Summer retired from the military but continues her selfless dedication to protecting our country. Today, she works as a member of a TSA K-9 team for the Amtrak Police Department in Washington, D.C., with her partner, retired U.S. Air Force Sergeant Micah Jones. The inseparable pair has provided coverage and security for VIPs and foreign dignitaries and works each day to play a vital role in the war against terrorism.
Taker is a 12-year-old Labrador Retriever who served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he uncovered lethal improvised explosive devices.
Taker saved countless lives—and risked his own—in service to our country. The 12-year-old Labrador Retriever bravely served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he worked as an explosives-detection dog specializing in improvised explosive devices, or IEDS—the leading cause of death of American and allied troops in the War on Terror. Taker retired from military service in 2012 and was adopted by his former handler, retired U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Kevin Zuniga. Taker now serves as Zuniga’s service dog, helping mitigate his symptoms of post-traumatic stress.