Check Out These Great Photos of War Dogs and Puppies

This weekend gave me a new perspective on the term "weekend warrior." I was lucky enough to be invited to a weekend full of military...

 |  Feb 20th 2012  |   14 Contributions


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A Marine handler and his military working dog took part in an intensive competition during the War Dog Weekend. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)

This weekend gave me a new perspective on the term "weekend warrior." I was lucky enough to be invited to a weekend full of military working dog team events on the grounds of the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, Calif. It was put together by Feed the Dawgs, an energetic group of mostly Vietnam-era military dog handlers who want to treat active-duty dog handlers with the respect and appreciation they did not generally receive.

The "Dawgs" go to 18 military kennels in the Southwest to provide recognition (and steak feasts) to active-duty handlers. Last year some volunteers drove up to 3,700 total miles for these sojourns, on their own dime. The group gets some financial contributions, but there's a lot of digging deep into their own pockets to keep making this support happen.

(They could use some financial help, since they're not a nonprofit. "We're totally and thoroughly unprofitable," says former handler J.M. Hemp, who heads most of the events. I know how much it must cost to put on these events. I was in charge of prepping many dozens of steaks this weekend, and each bag had a pricetag of about $90. If you want to help out, click on the Contact page to e-mail Hemp. He says he'd sure appreciate anything you can do.)

This weekend's events attracted handlers from all services. About 150 dined on a big steak BBQ, and several took part in an exciting Iron Dog Competition, which featured a realistic obstacle course, a "bad guy" scenario, scent detection, and a very grueling run where handlers had to carry their dogs on their backs. It ended with a crawl through a mud tunnel. I've seen these dogs do a great deal during the research for my forthcoming book, Soldier Dogs, but I was wowed by the teams' abilities on this very challenging competition.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the competition, and some bonus puppy photos. If you want to see more, you can go to the event album at my Soldier Dogs Facebook page. Enjoy!

A bond between handler and dog is like no other. Here Marine Cpl. Jonathan T. Overland with his Belgian Malinois, Ccann P255, from Camp Cann/Camp Pendleton, have a little quiet time together before the Iron Dog Competition. The team would go on to win the day's "Top Dog" prize for best overall competition performance.  Ccann was named after Camp Pendleton USMC Sgt. Adam L. Cann, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. You can read much more about Sgt. Cann in Nicole Arbelo's book, <em>K9 Heroes,</em> which explores stories of MWD teams, often from handlers' perspectives. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)
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MWD Ccann melts at Overland's caring touch. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)

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Overland and Ccann on the competition course. Note how Ccann is checking in his handler on his way to the next task. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)
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Ccann and Overland, finished with the course. They would become the "top dog" winner of the competition. Note how Ccann is once again checking in with Overland. That kind of unspoken communication is the hallmark of a great team. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)
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There's nothing like running with a dog on your back to really test strength and endurance. Here, Marine Cpl. David Mayes carries his large explosives detection dog, a Belgian shepherd named Xerxes K222, as he runs and runs. The team won second place in tactical/obedience. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)
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At the end of the grueling course the handlers had to crawl through a mud tunnel. Dogs just trotted through. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)
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Hindi alerts to the scent he was seeking. I love how he just sits in the tire, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, waiting for word from his handler. He looks like he should be enjoying a float in a lake in that thing. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)
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Puppeeees! These show-stoppers, Diemos and Cooper, are the pet dogs of two Marine dog handlers out of 29 Palms Marine base. (Photo by Maria Goodavage)
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To melt for: Bloodhound puppy Cooper and his pal Diemos, both pet dogs of Marine handlers. (Photo: Maria Goodavage)
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I want these bookends! (Photo: Maria Goodavage)

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