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Retired military dogs given to shelter are looking for forever homes

Dogart_thumb By Ellen | May 01, 2012 | Comments (3)

Raka and Woody are military dogs up for adoption

Susan Swaim at Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary received a call from Rowan County Animal shelter recently. "I have two special American heroes here," Swaim remembers hearing. "I think you're going to want to see them."

Raka and Woody are military dogs up for adoptionSwaim is operation manager at the North Carolina based-rescue and mother to a U.S. Marine corporal who served in Afghanistan. She listened to the story of Sgt. Woody and Sgt. Raka, a pair of retired Army dogs, and knew she had to help. "I'll be there in five minutes," she told the shelter.

Sgt. Woody and Sgt. Raka detected bombs and explosive materials when they were overseas in Iraq. The two golden Labrador Retrievers had several tours of duty before they retired two years ago.

"There's no telling how many lives these dogs saved while they were over there, and they deserve the best in their retirement years," said Swaim. "And that's what we're going to make sure they get."

To look at the pair now, playing with each other and chewing stuffies, it's hard to see that they are combat veterans. Sometimes their training comes through, like when Swaim observed them search a car in the parking lot the day they arrived at the shelter.

Raka and Woody are military dogs up for adoptionFrom what Swaim was able to piece together of the dogs' backstory, they served in Baghdad. They likely served four or five tours and had several different handlers. One day, towards the end of their service, Woody was out on patrol and Raka was locked in his kennel, the building where the dogs were housed caught fire. Several dogs died in the fire, but Raka was saved, although now suffers post traumatic stress syndrome, which is being treated.

Shortly after the fire, both dogs were retired. A veterinary technician who cared for the dogs, paid for the dogs to be shipped home with her. Her mother took the dogs into her home but recently fell upon difficult financial hardship and had to give them up, as her daughter had been reassigned and could not take the dogs either. "It's rare for canine veterans to end up in an animal shelter," Swaim said.

Ideally, Faithful Friends would like to reunite the dogs with a soldier who was the dog's handler in Iraq. But if they can't find a handler, they will open adoptions up to the public. So far, they have had a flood of applications, with several of the top candidates having served in the U.S. military. A few have promised to even give the dogs up should any of the the dogs' original Army handlers step forward.

"They really want to provide the best they can for the dog," Swaim said of the candidates. "It's not about 'I want a Katrina dog,' or 'I want a bomb-sniffing dog.'"

Whomever ends up adopting Raka and Woody will be a fortunate guardian. The dogs have amazing personalities, are well-trained, are well-looked after and are "incredibly social," Swaim said.

Raka and Woody are military dogs up for adoption

 



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Comments on this Article

I am sure these two fantastic dogs are CWD's. The military ensures their retiring working dogs are cared for when retired. Unfortunately, some contract companies are not concerned about ensuring their dogs find homes when they are retired. As a handler of a retired CWD (yellow lab), that had worked in Iraq & Afghanistan for years protecting our troops, I can say these two handsome fellas would be a great addition to any family. My CWD fit into the family with two other dogs (1 GSD & 1 Anatolian Shep) quickly and has been a complete joy. My CWD was lucky because he had handlers that cared about him finding a good home rather than being tossed aside to who knows what fate. Just recently, there were 10 Begian Malinois that were going to be abandoned in Afghanistan because their contract company retired them and didn't want to pay to bring them home. If it weren't for a rescue organization stepping in, they would have died over there never having a chance to be appreciated for their work and never enjoying the love of a family in their old age. There are going to be hundreds or thousands of these dogs needing homes that will be retired over time as the war winds down. They can only find homes if rescues step foward. At the end of last year, a CWD serving in Afghanistan suffered a severe foot injury and if it were not for a local rescue stepping in to pay for his transport to their rescue, he would have died over there. He ended up having to have the leg amputated because he did not receive proper medical care since he was "retired" due to injury. He is now thriving in a home with a loving family that adores him. CWD's are fantastic dogs and the quicker these boys are found a loving forever home, the better.
The answer may not be to find their contractor companies, although most of the contracting handlers are military veterans themselves with integrity who love the dogs, there are a few companies the dogs are better off disengaged. I have sent messages to all the contractor handlers I know that are dedicated and willing to help. I am a *retired war dog handler* myself and have adopted or fostered 1 CWD and 3 MWDs. The military has no obligation towards the CWD, sadly, and our country needs to stand behind these war dogs. I would say.... go ahead and find these awesome pups a great retirement forever home. Finding an original handler or handlers could be very time consuming. The handlers may not be available to adopt due to current deployements or active duty status. Since the labadors are typically not patrol/shulzhund trained finding a retirement home would be easier.
to find Raka and Woody's handlers may present a challenge. Check their left ear for a tattoo. From their story I have an idea that they may not have a tattoo because they would be what are called, "CWDs" contractor working dogs who serve the United States Military. CWDs are in a precarious situation currently different from their comrades the "MWDs" military working dogs. CWDs have more than one handler while deployed and can have many handlers during their time in combat. tracking their microchip (you may have already done) sometimes ends up with companies that have since gone out of business.
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