Of the more than 4,000 dogs sent to serve our country in Vietnam, less than 200 were ever returned to the US. This wasn't because they were injured or killed, nor was it because they posed a threat to the American populace. It was because the military didn't want to face the cost and liability associated with their return to civilian life. Despite the fact that these dogs were responsible for for saving a minimum of 10,000 Americans from death or injury. The Military considered them as materiel, equipment to be discarded or destroyed on site rather than brought back. This wasn't always so, my own grandparents donated a German Shepherd to the military during W.W.II and he was brought back after the war and given an honorable discharge along with medals and commendations for his service. We used to treat our war dogs as the noble heroes they were. In Vietnam we treated them as defective equipment. This was shameful!
In Vietnam each branch of the military was responsible for the use and disposition of their assigned dogs. "In March 1984, the Air Force was appointed as executive agency for all military working dog matters throughout the department of Defense. As a matter of practice, we no longer leave dogs behind or turn them over to foreign governments. These animals are now recycled back into the Air Force inventory and are sent to other Air Force bases for continued service." - Major Jeffrey A. Rammes USAF - So in the '80s and '90s, while we weren't leaving our dogs behind any longer, we still viewed them as inventory to be used until they ceased to work properly, and then simply destroyed.
In November 2000 President Clinton did pass the "Robby" law (Public Law 106-446). This law was aimed at military dogs that were no longer able to go into combat or be used for training purposes. Upon retirement of the canine, the handler is able to adopt the partner they have worked closely with. If it is not possible for the handler to adopt the dog, a previous handler will be able to adopt. For more information concerning this law, please visit this website for the Department of Defense. This law came too late to save Robby but offers new hope for many military service dogs.
Recently, after years of wrangling, two War Dog Memorials were erected on Military bases here in the US. To many Vietnam vets this was an honor long, long overdue. Many former handlers attended the ceremonies, and not a few had tears streaming down their faces as they filed by the memorial sculpture. Many touched the nose of the dog in the sculpture just as they would have done had it been their own dog. Click here for more information about the War Dog Memorials. This site also has info on the Memorials.
Our service dogs must be honored and treated as heroes, because that is what they are. And they must be allowed to retire to loving homes, as any soldier is. They have served us with honor and distinction, and have saved countless American sons and daughters from injury and death. They have risked their own death and injury for no more than the love and affection of their handlers, and because they could do no less than their best. They would NEVER, EVER have left us behind, and they would never give up on us because we were too old or infirm to do our jobs anymore. If they can offer us this sort of service and devotion, how can we do less for them? We owe them a debt that we must repay. We have taken the first steps towards that goal, but there is still much more to do. Visit the links on this page and find out what you can do to help make a positive change in the lives of our noble war dogs.The Monks' of New Skete Training Philosophy:
"And so we are offering our experience with dogs not just for the benefit of your dog, but in the hope that you, too, might learn something about yourself through your interaction with your dog. A better insight into your dog may give you a glimpse of your own humanity, and what is just as important, it should heighten the sense of responsibility we as humans have, not just for our fellow creatures but for each other and for all creation."
"He latched onto my hand. He gave me a friendly nip on the hand and looked at me. Wolf absolutely would not let me go by him. I looked straight ahead and not more than two feet was a tripwire. And I would have died right there with him if he wouldn't have found that wire." - Charlie Cargo, Vietnam dog handler
"Thirty thousand dogs have served America
in the past fifty years. Civilian dogs were volunteered by their families
for service in World War II, and they were considered personnel by the
Some of them even were promoted to outrank their handlers. At war's end,
these dogs received Honorable Discharges and returned to civilian
"During the Korean War, a study concluded
that war dogs cut casualties by more than
65% wherever they worked on the front line.
One scout dog named York completed 148
combat patrols without a single loss of life.
But from this time forward all of our war
dogs would be classified as "equipment," and
stripped of their ranks and honorary medals."
"The war dogs contributed tremendously to the war effort and saving countless American lives, and somebody out there may have a father or a brother right now that owes his life to one of these dogs and I just want everybody to know that these animals existed and served this country." - Dr. John Kubisz, a veterinarian serving with the 764th Veterinary detachment in Vietnam
"He became so much a part of you that
if he wasn't there it was like you were missing your hand. I'd of rather
given up my arm, than given up my dog." -Tom Hewitt, Vietnam dog handler.
The US Military has K9 Teams in the Middle East right now that could use your help. Please take a moment to check this website out and see if you can help. It will make a huge difference in the lives of our K9 Teams, both 2 and 4 footed!