We've all heard the expression: "A man's best friend is his equipment."
You haven't? Well you must not work for the Pentagon. There, military dogs are considered mere "equipment" and as such can be left behind when the troops come home.
It's a bit more complicated than that. Military dogs are enlisted (drafted actually) to identify enemy locations, to seek out bombs and protect bases. It is dangerous, often traumatic work. The dogs are credited with saving countless U.S. and allied lives, which is why the Taliban actively targets our dogs of war. While on active service, each dog is given a higher rank than its handler.
That is, right up until the moment these dogs are "retired." Once they are too old, too shell-shocked or simply not needed, the dogs are automatically declared equipment that can be left behind like a latrine tent. The military sometimes says they are "retired" and become "civilians," but the result is the same because these civilians don't have a right to military transport home.
"While there is a proper, legal classification for a working dog, we know they are living things, and we have great respect and admiration for them,"
If you ever talked to a military dog handler, or even if you simply had a dog, odds are you know the obvious truth of this. If you still need convincing, watch the 2013 Animal Planet documentary about U.S. war dogs in
But that trust often goes unrewarded.
It is one thing to ask these warriors to say goodbye to their dog when it is still on active duty and is assigned a new handler, which often happens. It is quite another to ask them to leave these dogs behind when the dogs are effectively abandoned overseas, left to languish in shelters -- or worse. That's why handlers are sometimes forced to make incredible sacrifices to get their four-legged comrades home on their own.
Organizations such as the
Legislation pushed by Rep.
Even if it did come at some additional cost, so what? Going by simple cost-benefit analysis, the military wouldn't go to such great lengths to retrieve the bodies of fallen soldiers or protect the American flag, and yet it does. Why? Because everyone understands that such obligations are morally required and vital to morale.
"There are those who consider our military working dogs to be pieces of gear," Ferrell says in Glory Hounds. "I, for one, do not believe that at all. To try to remove your heart from the situation is really asking too much of a handler."
And not just the handlers.