Honoring our canine veterans

In honor of the Memorial Day holiday, I thought I’d take a look at some of the perhaps little known canine veterans.

Dogs have been used in a military capacity as far back as the Revolutionary War in the late 1700s. Every soldier who “brings with him a strong dog” was paid three shillings a month! Even by the time of World War I the US did not have an established K9 program while other countries already had sentry and courier dog programs. The Germans lead the field in military dogs with over 30,000, the Italians 3,000, and the US borrowed dogs from our allies or troops brought dogs with them.

The breed of the military dog in the early years was much smaller; terriers, pit bulls, collies, and some shepherds. The job of the military dog was to bring cigarettes to troops, be a courier, establish the whereabouts of the wounded, bring medical supplies, act as guard dogs, be a mascot, etc.

By the time of Vietnam, the US was still far behind the rest of the world in terms of military dogs. A little over 500 dog teams were employed in Vietnam, but over 4,000 dogs during the course of the war. While there were 3 canine casualties, not one base was taken by Viet Cong that was guarded by sentry dogs. The sentry dogs were vital in giving the soldiers enough warning when a base was being approached.

In the modern era, dogs are mostly used for bomb, drug, fire/explosive detection, search and rescue, and patrol and attack. German shepherds, Dutch shepherds, and Belgian Malinois are almost exclusively used for “sniffing” operations. The military has their own Dog School where canines are tested for temperament, physicality, gun shyness, and other items and then run through extensive training not unlike “regular” dog training.

There are so many examples of heroic dogs, from many different countries, I couldn’t possibly profile them all. Here’s a sampling.


Sergeant Stubby

Sergeant Stubby

Stubby was a pit bull mix in WWI who served for 18 months. Stubby alerted for gas attacks, attacking German soldiers, and was even injured by a grenade. Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and met three different presidents! Sergeant Stubby’s remains are in the Smithsonian.





Chips in action!

Chips in action!

Chips was a German Shepherd/Collie mix donated to the army by a New York family. Chips flushed out enemy troops to be captured and stormed machine gun nests. He was wounded in the head and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Purple Star for bravery (these were later revoked due to a military rule about medals being given to non-humans, hmm). He returned home to his family in New York after his tour of duty.


movietinD3Everybody knows RinTinTin, but did you know that RinTinTin was a war dog? RinTinTin was a German Shepherd, a mascot for the German soldiers. However, he was part of a litter of five puppies abandoned at a German war station when American soldiers found them. And the rest they say is history…



Nemo getting checked by a vet

Nemo getting checked by a vet

Nemo is a German Shepherd that was on patrol with his handler in Vietnam when he alerted on something and gun fire broke out. He was shot in the face and his handler was also shot. Undeterred, Nemo attacked the Viet Cong which gave his soldier enough time to call in backup- who got there and cleared the area of any more enemies. To protect his soldier, Nemo laid on top of him and the medics had to get Nemo and the soldier to the hospital for care.



Cairo waiting to go!

Cairo waiting to go!

Cairo is a very special Belgian Malinois that is part of the SEAL Team Six group that stormed Osama Bin Laden’s compound. Cairo’s job was to detect bombs and explosives, flush out enemies, and detect secret passageways. Cairo even helped secure the perimeter. Cairo was even present when President Obama met with the SEALs who carried out the operation.


This Memorial Day as we honor our veterans who died while serving our country, let’s not forget the canine veterans that helped along the way.

Are we hunting wabbit?

At last report, Reggie needed to be stable to move to a food challenge. Rabbit. Did we do it? Nope. We did lamb. My gut said rabbit was not going to work on this guy.

He finally got some stability and we were ready to start the transition to a limited ingredient diet of lamb and sweet potato. Given his tendency towards gastric distress, he kept the same wet food and a ratio of 3/4 : 1/4 with the dry food (existing to new). It was a very small amount of new food mixed in with the existing food. The plan was to keep that ratio for a week or more before bumping it up.

It lasted for three days. He started eating less and less and by day five he was on a full blown hunger strike. So I decided to pull the new food from the mix. I didn’t get a chance to see if this worked because on day six Reggie woke me up at an obscene hour of the morning (a Saturday to boot) to go outside and dine on grass. Poor guy felt so bad he vomited bile three times. At this point he wouldn’t eat anything and we had to do the pills the hard way.

However, the next day he felt better and ate! Amazing recovery! He began eating right away- only the prescription food and no new food. This was a light bulb moment. Reggie will never go back to regular dog food. He will be on prescription dog food permanently now.

The goal is minimizing, and hopefully eliminating for the longest stretches possible, the gastric/intestinal inflammation. It’s not in his best tummy interest to cycle through different foods and hope they work, they most likely won’t. I understand why the prescription food is designed to work and thank goodness he likes it!

So we’re not hunting wabbit…or lamb…we’re hunting hydrolyzed proteins 🙂

Relapse…and recovery

Yikes! I’ve been gone for a while. It’s well intentioned though. Reggie has been very sick, and of course I have been taking good care of him.

Last summer he had an awful bout with a new development, irritable bowel disease. He stopped eating (literally, zero food) for several days and took little food for about three weeks. He developed a skin infection then had a terrible reaction to the antibiotics. It took about two months to fully recover but he did, and I thought we were past it.

Um, no.

Irritable bowel disease is akin to an autoimmune disease that has periods of flare-up, and periods of remission. Reggie went into remission. Also, it is very common for dogs with food allergies to develop IBD later in life.

Right at the new year, Reggie developed a skin infection again. He gets itchy, then he scratches and licks, and it develops into a lesion. More and more frequently these scratchy spots are becoming infected more easily. This time, one of the lesions became infected with staph, a staph infection. He stopped eating again, he had to get a monster shot of antibiotics, and recovery was slow. But, recover he did.

Then it happened again! Reggie is fond of hunger strikes and a month ago he decided he was over this whole eating thing. He got another staph infection- this one was worse, even the staff at the vet’s office noted that he was not his usual bubbly self- and another monster shot of antibiotics. He lost six pounds in a month (that’s 10% of his weight- that’s a big deal), he was dehydrated, his proteins were extremely high (due to malabsorption in his inflamed intestines), and he had a seizure due to the lowered threshold. Yikes.

He was started on a common G.I. anti-inflammatory medication to “calm down” his intestines. He also started eating prescription hypoallergenic dry food in addition to the hydrolyzed protein wet food he was already eating. Problem was, it wasn’t working, and he didn’t like the food.

So now we have a different medication that seems to be slowly working, and a new hypoallergenic food that he likes. He has gained four pounds, and his immune system is stable enough that he was able to get his vaccines. But what is our goal? We need to be striving for some sort of normalcy.

There is a plan. Reggie needs stability on this medication and food for 3-4 weeks. No G.I. distress, no infections, and continued weight gain. Then we have to do G.I. challenges with different foods to establish any reactions. Reggie will never eat his duck food again. We had a good run with it, but your G.I. system changes over time and his is saying “no” right now. The thinking is that duck is too close to other poultry that we know he is allergic to (chicken, turkey). The difference here is that we are not doing a true allergy challenge, but a G.I. challenge which requires less time and is looking for different reactions. He will also have all dairy eliminated from his diet because he is allergic to beef- milk and cheese still come from a cow.

So you might be wondering what he will be eating. Well his protein choices are limited. In discussions with the vet, we are going to try…rabbit. There are actually two sources that I can get quality, commercial dog food in both wet and dry form in rabbit that doesn’t have any of his allergens in it. We’ll see. I’m not sure he’ll eat it but we will try. Way back in the beginning we tried bison and he just sniffed it and walked away! Our other option is lamb. I’m partial to the lamb because I know he likes it and there are many more sources I can get good food from.
So in another month Reggie should be all healed up and eating new food. I’ll be able to report if we are buying rabbit or lamb and how it’s working!

Sleeping it off

Sleeping it off