March 13th has been designated as National K9 Veterans Day to honor the sacrifices and the service of US military and working dogs.  This specific date is chosen because the War Dog Program, also known as K-9 Corps, was initiated by the army on March 13th, 1942. Since the day dogs were officially recognized as an integral part of the United States Armed Forces. A military dog trainer named Joseph White gave the idea for the day. White died in 2009 and National K-9 Veterans Day remained without official recognition. However some states recognize it – New Jersey was the first one, followed by Michigan, West Virginia, and Florida.

dog and an army officer jump from a planeHistory

During the Second World War, precisely after the Pearl Harbor Bombing, many things changed for the worse. Essential supplies like leather, rubber, and oil were rationed, women were ordered to create war supplies and men were continuously trained for the war. Dogs were also called to duty. Unlike the message carriers and sentries, canines were during the First World War the purpose of Dogs for Defense (War Dog Program) was to make them capable of military use. Mrs. Alene Erlanger was the private citizen that initiated the program in cooperation with the AKC (American Kennel Club) and many reputable breeders. An interesting fact is that the first dogs used as military dogs were actually family pets.

military dog trainingThe first group of dogs coming out Dogs for Defense was ready by November 1942. They were sent for duty in North Africa where they proved that all the training paid off, despite the initial gun shy behavior. The demand for trained dogs increased and as the war progressed Dogs for Defense could no longer keep up, so SID (Service Installations Divisions) took over instead to be responsible for the training of US military dogs. Even though the training was so to say undeveloped back then, the methods kept changing over the years to be tailor-made for the specific job a K9 unit was meant for – police, military, and rescue. Today each trained dog and his handler are prepared to perform their duties to the fullest.

The United States army used to leave service dogs behind after fighting a war overseas or euthanize them simply because it was too expensive to ship them back home. This phenomenon changed after the Robby’s Law was signed in 2000 and healthy working dogs couldn’t be euthanized any more. Nowadays they are retired veterans that get adopted either by their former handlers or by other people that can provide a good life for a deserving canine.

How to celebrate

Military German Shepherd with gogglesAs we mentioned before, March 13th represents the day when the US Army K9 Corps was officially formed back in 1942. This day is a great time to revise historical facts and find out more about the Second World War and why it should never happen again. As some states haven’t officially recognized, use the day post on social media to raise awareness and possibly influence the local authorities to reconsider the legislation.