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K9 Veterans Day

The SEAL K9 command lost count of how many deployments this dog went on. He went on to deploy with numerous handlers in numerous theaters.  The standard was 2 deployments and retire when I arrived at the dog teams.  The command lost count after 8 deployments.  Every time another dog was flushed out of the program or failed pre deployment qualifications, he was ready.  

There are many dogs with incredible stories from moments of heated combat.  All deserving their recognition and story.  This story is one of never ending reliability.  He did his job.

I will never forget the first week of handler school.  We had been paired up 48 hours prior and were still trying to figure out how to sit.  Every other handler team had a dog that had already deployed or months of training leading up to the course.  Then there was us.  I had barely figured out anything being at the dog teams for a few months, learning as much as I could.  He had been less than a month out from the flight from holland.  

Though getting imprinted on odor in record time, no one could tell me with 100% certainty they were confident in his ability to make it through the program.  But I needed to go to handler school and they needed to eventually find out if this dog had what it took to make it through the program.  I believe the number that was given to me was 50% chance of making it through the program.  After flying to the east coast for our 8 week handler course, the first night was spent giving him a bath after he painted the entire inside of the crate with crap.  After washing him we spent the rest of the night teaching some sit and stays.  Yes, future Navy SEAL dog needing to learn to sit and stay.  

In the beginning of the course we were very apparently the weakest handler team.  When we were done training for the day, I took him back to the hotel and continued to work on basics.  Recalls, Sits, Downs, loose leash walking, impulse control.  He learned quickly. By the time we left the handler course, we no longer were dead last.  We were actually scoring higher by comparison than most of the teams and even winning flat out in areas of detection.  I left the handler course knowing we still had a long way to go for deploying.  

I took training him as my personal responsibility and trained him every day.  I trained him like our lives depended on it, because it did.  I didn’t have time for debating dog trainers online about methods.  I simply learned from as many trainers as I could.  Practiced and observed what worked and what didn't.  We learned together. For years I actually regretted training him so much.  Because he was so good, the command found it very hard to retire him.  I actually regretted being part of making him what he was.  I felt personally responsible for making him a detection machine with a great bite to match. One could quite literally hand the leash to someone, give them the commands and he would go to work.  He was a push button dog that deserved better.  Instead of retiring on par with the rest of the dogs in the program.  He continued to deploy time after time.  Each time I was told that would be his last.  Each time, he was redeployed because he could technically still do it.  

Instead of being regretful, through the years I have spent time becoming grateful.  I am just grateful of what this dog did for me, the other handlers, the other operators he was put to work to protect. I am grateful for him helping to teach me so many things.  Having a completely green dog the first week had him seemed like such a disadvantage.  That disadvantage became such a huge asset for the SEAL teams and for my education.  Thank you for your service.  Thank you to every K9 that went to work to protect our military.  

Happy K9 Veterans Day

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