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.


Veteran.com – Joe Wallace

Military.com – Amy Buschatz


American Humane – Cory Gunkel

American Kennel Club – Mara Bovsun

The Story of the Truck Puppies (Update)

It was all hands on deck to ensure our new friends received top-notch care yesterday!

All six of our new owner surrender puppies were bathed, vaccinated, and received nail trims, microchips, flea/tick treatment, and more during their time at our office. They have all been placed with fosters, and only one, the shy female, still needs a permanent foster home. Please sign up on our website if you’re available to help: https://ruffstartrescue.org/get-involved/foster/
A huge thank you to everyone who pitched in with support, donations, and lending a hand right when we needed it most. Your kindness and quick action mean the world to us and these pups. It’s moments like these that really show the heart and soul of our rescue community. Thank you for helping us create rescue magic.

The Story of the Truck Puppies

This morning, we faced a critical situation when a pet owner arrived at Ruff Start with six 4.5-month-old puppies, desperately seeking homes for the remaining pups from a litter of 10. Sadly, without immediate assistance and foster commitments, we were unable to accommodate these vulnerable pups. A mere hours later, thanks to the swift action of our dedicated staff, we mobilized to secure their rescue commitment.

Now, these precious puppies—five males and one female—are safe in the care of Ruff Start Rescue. However, we urgently need the support of our community to provide them with loving foster homes. Our office is not set up to permanently house dogs for an extended period. These pups, described as German Shepherd/Dogo Argentino/Bull Mastiff mixes, are very sweet, but they have a strong sense of adventure and curiosity, so it’s important to ensure they have a safe and secure environment. Another dog in the home would also help teach confidence to these youngsters.
The expenses for this litter are estimated to exceed $2,100. Each pup will require comprehensive veterinary care. Your donation will make a vital difference in their journey towards a brighter future. Please donate today to ensure these puppies receive the care they deserve.

The Story of Brownie

3/7 update: Brownie is feeling much better today after his supportive care! We will continue to test and monitor him. Your donations will make sure he receives everything he needs. Thank you!

Just hours ago, 14-week-old Brownie was rescued from a local shelter and whisked away to his new Ruff Start foster home. However, his foster noticed something wasn’t right immediately: Brownie seemed unusually lethargic, refusing food and water and preferring to sleep. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Brownie was swiftly transferred to a medical foster for specialized care.
Now, Brownie is under constant observation, receiving supportive treatment, and there’s the possibility of an emergency vet visit looming if his condition doesn’t improve rapidly.
On Monday, our intake representative met Brownie at the shelter, where he showcased his vibrant, playful personality. Just a typical, lively puppy, surrendered only a week ago due to being too much puppy for a family with a small child.
Since the beginning of the week, Brownie’s health has taken a sharp downturn, resulting in weight loss and profound lethargy. He was exposed to parvo but has tested negative for the virus.
It’s truly heartbreaking to witness his decline, highlighting the critical importance of placing young animals into foster care quickly to shield them from the risks of shelter environments.
Your generosity can make all the difference for Brownie’s journey to recovery and eventual adoption. Please consider donating today to support his medical care and help him on his path to finding a loving family.

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.

The Story of Bucky

Two-year-old Bucky was discovered on the streets, likely the victim of a hit-and-run.

This sweet fella made his way to a local shelter last month. The duration of his time as a stray remains unknown, but upon his arrival at the shelter, it was evident that he carried the burden of an injury – he was unable to put weight on his right front leg.
Upon joining Ruff Start, Bucky was immediately taken to Pet Central for sedation and radiographs. The results unveiled a complete dislocation of his elbow, a painful condition exacerbated by the tense muscles attempting to heal around it. Despite attempts to reset it, the efforts proved unsuccessful, leading to the recommendation of amputation, which is now happening today at Granite City.
Bucky’s foster has also noticed that he has started favoring his right rear leg, which will be thoroughly examined during his appointment.
Bucky, a complete lovebug, has touched the hearts of everyone he encounters. His sweet and friendly nature promises to make him an exceptional companion for his future family.
Please donate today to help cover the expenses incurred during Bucky’s recent veterinary appointment, including a neuter and comprehensive vetting, and today’s amputation procedure – a combined $1,100. Your generous contributions will also help fund any necessary future care for his rear leg. Bucky deserves to live a happy, pain-free life, and with your help, we’re determined to make it happen.

The Story of Tina

4-year-old Tina is a Ruff Start newcomer who is undergoing surgery at Granite City today. Upon joining the rescue, her foster bathed her and discovered large mammary masses. Aware of the potential risks associated with such masses, Tina was quickly scheduled for surgery to ensure her well-being.

We don’t know much about Tina’s past, but she was a recent owner surrender who was used for breeding. Tina is beginning to come out of her shell and is learning about the finer things in life, like treats and ear scritches. She’s learning how to be a family pet by observing the other chihuahuas in her foster home. The world is still a big, scary place to her, but she’s learning and growing every day. Overall, Tina is a sweet, gentle soul who deserves to be spoiled rotten and have her little floppy velvet ears petted for the rest of her life.
Tina’s vet bill today, which includes her spay, is expected to be around $400. Please help us with her expenses so she can go on to live a happy life with a new family.

The Story of Equay

12-year-old Equay has been living in this enclosure her entire life. Her owner recently passed away and left her to a family member with resource challenges. Struggling with severely limited access to food and water, Equay is left to endure the harsh elements outdoors.

Ruff Start is dedicated to being the voice for animals like Equay. We desperately want to help her, but we need a foster to commit to her care. She is said to be very sweet and loving. She was tested with dogs and puppies today and was very tolerant of them jumping all over her. She did display some resource guarding of food around the pups (not humans), but this is very common in dogs with limited access to food. We have a volunteer ready to pick Equay up as soon as a foster commitment is secured.
Please sign up and help us save her.

The Story of Scoobie

This 2-year-old good boy is at one of our vet partners today for a TPLO surgery. Scoobie, or the Happy Hippo as he’s known in his foster home, needs surgery to correct his torn ACL, which is limiting the function of his back leg and causing him to limp. He’s a happy, playful guy, so this surgery is imperative for Scoob to live a truly fulfilling life.

Joining Ruff Start from a local impound in September of ’23, Scoobie has had many transitions in his short life and is ready to find a family of his own. He is the ultimate cuddle buddy and would love to be your new source of happiness! He’s a 50-pound lap dog with a big heart that also extends to other dogs, making him the perfect playmate and companion.
With today’s procedure, Scoobie will have more support in his knee and will be able to function more normally. It’s an intense surgery with a long road to recovery for a big dog, with 6-8 weeks of intense physical therapy.
Scoobie’s looking at an estimated vet bill of $1,850 for today’s procedure and follow-up care. Can you please contribute to Scoobie’s journey towards a healthier and happier future?

The Story of Brave

Brave needs your support today! 🛑
Yesterday, 1-year-old Brave started displaying worrisome symptoms in his foster home. His foster mom rushed him to the vet as he was vomiting and unable to keep any food down. After a thorough examination, including bloodwork and radiographs, concerns arose about a potential foreign body causing distress in his stomach.
In an effort to unravel the mystery, the vet administered barium, a liquid that highlights the intestinal tract in X-rays, with plans to reevaluate this morning.
Thankfully, the subsequent X-rays revealed no foreign object, but Brave is now being treated for pancreatitis. The vet administered fluids and anti-nausea medication to address this condition.
Brave has an endearing personality and a gentle heart. He relies on his sociable brother, Chunky, to navigate new connections and is known for his engaging and affectionate nature. Chin scritches and leisurely lounging are among Brave’s preferred activities, occasionally interspersed with play sessions inspired by Chunky’s playful antics.
To ensure Brave receives the care he needs, we are faced with a vet bill estimated at a minimum of $400. Your assistance in covering these expenses will enable Brave to swiftly return to the loving company of his brother, Chunky. Can we count on your generosity to make this possible?
Ruff Start Rescue