A Day to Celebrate America’s Patriotic Pups

By: Brent Honcharenko

Monday, March 13, is National K9 Veterans Day. It’s not a national holiday, yet, but it is a day set aside to recognize and honor dogs that have been trained to serve our country. The day commemorates the service and sacrifices of American military, police, and agency K9s that valiantly served alongside their human handlers.

The initiative to recognize this day can be traced back over 80 years, when an organization called Dogs for Defense was founded to train dogs to be sentries for supply depots. Then, on March 13, 1942, the program was approved by the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Army K9 Corps was established.

Training dogs for military service is certainly nothing new. In fact, the practice can be mapped to ancient Egypt, as far back as 7000 – 4000 BC. The Saluki, a favorite breed of the Egyptian pharaohs, is a perfect example of this as they were used both in battle and for hunting. The admiration for these dogs is even recognized in hieroglyphics on tomb walls.

Fast-forward several millennium where it is documented that trained K9s assisted the U.S. Marine Corps in recapturing Pacific islands from enemy forces during WWII. This is also known as the Pacific Theater. During the Vietnam War, approximately 5,000 trained K9 scouts served alongside American troops. K9s remain an important part of the military and serve in many capacities. Some are guard and patrol dogs and some are trained specifically to locate explosives, mines and traps. Others are trained as transport, or pack, dogs.

In our local communities, municipal and state law enforcement agencies often have K9 officers on their forces. These K9s assist in criminal apprehensions and help locate contraband. K9s are also used by federal agencies at airports and at large events to help keep the public safe. Some special K9s are trained for emotional support and can help defuse a tense, escalating situation. While other K9s are simply used as good will ambassadors. Each plays a very special role.

K9’s are also very effectively trained and used for search and rescue missions, not only on snow-capped mountains after an avalanche but most notably at Ground Zero after 9/11 when the twin towers in New York City were destroyed. Several dogs from several agencies from all over the country were brought to the site and worked tirelessly to help find survivors as well as those who’d fallen. One witness said the dogs stood out like diamonds amid the rubble. Many of the 9/11 rescue K9s have since been recognized publically and even memorialized.

Surprisingly, however, prior to 2000, there were no protections in place to ensure military working dogs, specifically, had a safe life after their service. Sadly, in the case of the U.S. military, these specially trained K9s were viewed and officially categorized as “surplus equipment.” An unfortunate consequence of this is when American troops left Vietnam between 1973 and 1975, many of the military trained dogs were euthanized when the troops departed, and the others were just simply left behind.

The concept of K9 Veterans Day was initiated by Joe White of Jacksonville, FL. White was a Vietnam War veteran and a K9 handler and trainer. Because the U.S. Army K9 Corps was officially created on March 13, 1942, White chose this day to recognize and celebrate the service and contributions of America’s military working and service dogs. After his death in 2009, White’s wife, Sally, has continued the effort to make this a national holiday.

While White lobbied to honor the service of K9 veterans with a national holiday every March 13, others have worked to protect the lives of military working dogs. This began about 23 years ago after a former military working dog handler petitioned to adopt his dog, Robby, after he was retired from service. His request, however, was denied for unspecific reasons and Robby was instead euthanized.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) introduced a bill on September 27, 2000, to help change the fate of military working dogs like Robby. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law in November 2000 and it became known as Robby’s Law. Robby’s Law requires that all military working dogs deemed to be suitable for adoption should be available for placement after retirement from service. Additionally, Robby’s Law gives priority for adoption to former handlers and to law enforcement agencies.

Another win for K9 service veterans occurred on June 1, 2015, when the Military Dog Retirement Bill, sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and supported by the U.S. War Dog Association, was introduced. The bill passed in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Barak Obama. The law stipulates that military working dogs may no longer be deemed “equipment.”

Currently, there are about 3,000 military working dogs deployed alongside American troops all over the globe. K9 service dogs are loved and appreciated for their work. Unfortunately, however, despite the recognition they receive and the laws that have been passed to protect them, there are still some that do get left without homes after their service ends. There are adoption agencies that specialize in pairing people with retired K9 service dogs and arrange for their adoptions. A few of these organizations are Patriot K9 Rescue, Pets For Patriots, Warrior Dog Foundation and Mission K9 Rescue.

Take just a moment on March 13 to think about the service K9s and all of their contributions. Then take another moment to give your dog a hug, a quick belly rub, and an extra treat in honor of National K9 Veterans Day.

Sources:

Veteran.com – Joe Wallace

Military.com – Amy Buschatz

Nationaltoday.com

American Humane – Cory Gunkel

American Kennel Club – Mara Bovsun

The Story of Notorious D.O.G.

We are reaching out to you with a heavy heart and an incredible sense of hope. A few days ago, The Notorious D.O.G. (affectionately known as Biggy), a vibrant 9-week-old pit mix, joined his foster family, bringing immeasurable joy and playful energy into their lives.

Unfortunately, the initial delight took a drastic turn when Biggy’s foster mom noticed a sudden change in his demeanor. From originally running, jumping, and challenging the larger dogs to play, he then became lethargic, stopped eating, and began vomiting, even with an empty belly. Rushed to the emergency vet, the devastating diagnosis was confirmed – Biggy tested positive for Parvo, a highly contagious viral infection particularly threatening to young puppies.

Swift and decisive action was taken. Biggy immediately underwent aggressive IV therapy and a groundbreaking but expensive Parvo treatment called monoclonal antibody therapy. We commit to providing the best possible care for every animal, but with unknown escalating medical costs, this can become a significant challenge. The emergency vet visit costs over $3,000. So, we turn to our incredible community for support and humbly ask for your help.

The road to recovery is challenging, requiring ongoing care, anti-nausea and appetite-stimulant medications, and regular subcutaneous fluids.

But here’s the beacon of hope – thanks to the immediate action and the groundbreaking treatment, Biggy is already showing remarkable progress! He’s back to running and playing, eating and drinking independently since Friday evening. He has been free from diarrhea and vomiting since leaving the emergency vet.

Your support is making a tangible impact on Biggy’s journey to health. However, the financial strain remains, and we sincerely ask for your continued support to ensure that Biggy receives the care he needs to conquer Parvo and thrive.

Every contribution, regardless of size, will make a significant difference. Let’s unite as a community to give Biggy the love and care he deserves. Your generosity has the power to be a lifeline for animals in need, and we express our deepest gratitude for being part of this vital mission.

12 Strays of Christmas: Esko

esko
Foster home needed!

Esko is the sweetest soul in the whole wide world! This 4-year-old, 45lb beauty—a small shepherd mix—needs a foster home to break free from a local shelter. Esko’s been there for 4 weeks, patiently waiting for a loving family. She’s smart, playful, keeps her kennel clean, and loves hugs! Esko knows all her commands and shows off with a hug between each one. She adores people and playfully bows to her kennel buddy. She’s dog-friendly and the perfect companion.

Can you be Esko’s hero and give her a home before the holidays?

Donate today to support 12 Strays of Christmas – a campaign to find foster and adoptive homes for local stray animals before the holidays.

12 Strays of Christmas: Milo

milo
Update: Milo is joining Ruff Start on 12/15!

Urgent: Milo Needs Your Help!

Milo is a two-year-old sweetheart stuck in the shelter and in need of immediate rescue. This 35-pound bundle of love is already neutered, vaccinated, and a total charmer from day one. He’s got the basics down—fully potty trained and knows how to sit like a pro!

Milo’s a champ around dogs, having aced it with his previous friends and multiple dogs at the shelter. But here’s the scoop: he’s feeling the nerves in this shelter life, and time’s ticking for him. Yesterday would’ve been ideal to get him out, but today is our chance to make it happen!

He’s a tad underweight, but Milo’s overall healthy and bursting with affection. Let’s give him the best gift this holiday season—a warm, loving foster home. Step up and be the hero in Milo’s story. Sign up to foster him now and be the reason for his tail-wagging, holiday bliss!

Donate today to support 12 Strays of Christmas – a campaign to find foster and adoptive homes for local stray animals before the holidays.

12 Strays of Christmas: Oreo

oreo
#12StraysOfChristmas foster needed!

Oreo is an 8-9-month-old playful, cuddly stray kitten in need of a foster home! Her caretakers are heading on vacation, and she’s currently staying in their garage.

Quick facts about Oreo:
🐾 Litter box trained
🐾 Great with all ages, dogs, and other cats
🐾 Friendly, playful, and loves cuddles
Can you open your home to Oreo? She’ll melt your heart with her charm!
Donate today to support 12 Strays of Christmas – a campaign to find foster and adoptive homes for local stray animals before the holidays.

12 Strays of Christmas: Tiny Nibbletree

Tiny Nibbletree
Update: another rescue has taken Tiny! 🎉
If you’re looking for someone to steal your holiday-loving heart, this could be the one! ❤

Tiny Nibbletree was found stray last week and is now on the hunt for a foster family of his very own! This cutie is 3 months old and around 15 pounds. He’s scared in the shelter environment and needs a family to help him flourish.

Tiny Nibbletree was found stray last week and is now on the hunt for a foster family of his very own! This cutie is 3 months old and around 15 pounds. He’s scared in the shelter environment and needs a family to help him flourish.

Please consider making a gift to help with expenses associated with the care of the hundreds of impound animals Ruff Start intakes annually. Together, we can ensure a future for the stray animals of Minnesota.

12 Strays of Christmas: Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus
Meet our next #12StraysOfChristmas animal!
This adorable lady might be dealing with some allergies, but her heart is pure gold. She’s about 5 years old, petite with a powerhouse build, and she adores everyone she meets. At around 55/60 lbs and the height of a basset hound, she’s a compact bundle of love waiting for the right foster family.

We’re seeking a foster hero who can help her with a bit of TLC. She’ll need someone committed to transitioning her onto a healthy diet and gradually eliminating potential allergens (starting with poultry) to identify what’s causing her itchiness. She comes with initial vaccines, but she’ll need some vet care, too.

One of her standout qualities? She’s a social butterfly! She recently met another dog and nailed it—her sweet nature and easygoing demeanor shine through. She might just be the perfect fit for a home with a canine companion.

At this impound, we’re fortunate to facilitate intros between our fosters and their resident pets before the big move. So, if you’re considering fostering this lovely girl and have a resident pup, we can arrange a meet-up!

If you have room in your heart and home to foster this sweetheart, sign up here:

Please consider making a gift to help with expenses associated with the care of the hundreds of impound animals Ruff Start intakes annually. Together, we can ensure a future for the stray animals of Minnesota.

12 Strays of Christmas: Figgy Pudding

Figgy Pudding
Update: This boy has been tagged by a rescue! 🎉
Looking for the perfect addition to your holiday celebrations? Meet Figgy Pudding!

This adorable 5-month-old pup captured our hearts after being found roaming the streets and landing in a local impound. Figgy is an absolute sweetheart and deserves a loving foster home. Can you help?

When joining Ruff Start, Figgy will receive all necessary veterinary care, including a neuter. Your donations will make a real difference, sponsoring his time in rescue and supporting our other #12StraysOfChristmas.

Please consider making a gift to help with expenses associated with the care of the hundreds of impound animals Ruff Start intakes annually. Together, we can ensure a future for the stray animals of Minnesota.

12 Strays of Christmas: Bea & Puppies

bea & nine puppies
Where are your dogs right now?

As night falls on one of the MN reservations we work with, Bea and her nine puppies are in our hearts and thoughts as they huddle together outside for warmth. Temperatures are dropping below freezing, and their lives are sadly at risk without rescue.

We have been searching for fosters for Bea and her babies for two weeks. Thankfully, fosters have stepped up for six puppies, but without commitment for the entire family, they cannot come.

Can you please foster Bea or 3 of her pups? Bea is a super friendly 1-year-old Rottweiler mix, between 40-50 pounds. The puppies are around eight weeks old. With fosters, they can join Ruff Start on Sunday.

Once this family joins Ruff Start, they will need all veterinary care – at an estimated $350 per dog or $3,500 for the family. Please donate today to support their time in rescue.
Join us this holiday season as we find foster and adoptive homes for #12StraysOfChristmas.
Please consider making a gift to help with expenses associated with the care of the hundreds of impound animals Ruff Start intakes annually. Together, we can ensure a future for the stray animals of Minnesota.

12 Strays of Christmas: Wilbur

wilbur
The holidays are a joyous time for many, but for stray animals, this time can be sad and lonely, and for impound and shelter employees, it can be stressful and heartbreaking to watch animals come in from the cold.

One of our goals this holiday season is to bring awareness to the many strays living in local impounds who need the community’s help. Join us in the coming weeks as we celebrate #12StraysOfChristmas – an effort to find foster and adoptive homes for 12 stray animals before Christmas.

Wilbur, a 6-7-month-old pup, found his way to a local shelter in early October as a stray. This handsome little guy is a bit shy around new faces in the shelter, but underneath that initial hesitation lies a heart bursting with sweetness and happiness. Sadly, the shelter environment seems to overwhelm him, hindering his true personality from shining through. Yet, shelter employees have caught glimpses of his playful, loving nature, and we’re convinced that with a bit of extra love and care, Wilbur will blossom into the most wonderful companion.

You can be the one to make a difference in Wilbur’s life by signing up to foster him.

Please consider making a gift to help with expenses associated with the care of the hundreds of impound animals Ruff Start intakes annually. Together, we can ensure a future for the stray animals of Minnesota.
Ruff Start Rescue