The United States has a lousy record of taking care of its veterans, canine or human, once they’ve done their job. This isn’t a new thing: The Civil War and World War I both left traumatized, impoverished veterans in their wake with little support from the people who had sent them onto the battlefield in the first place. The passage of the G.I. Bill in 1944 was an exception to the rule, and even then, World War II vets had more trouble returning to their lives than we commonly think. The 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives swept the Oscars and remains a classic because it acknowledged the reality of those problems.
In the present, one kennel owner in Chester, Virginia, is trying to make the return easier for 12 canine veterans after they were abandoned by a private contractor. As a result, he’s on the brink of poverty himself.
“When the K9 warriors were delivered to Mount Hope Kennels on February 10, 2014, they were originally the property of the Department of Defense and were adopted by a private contract company,” Mission K9 Rescue cofounder Kristen Maurer said in a statement. “The plan for the dogs was to be repurposed for another mission, but that never happened.”
Most of the dogs are still at Mount Hope Kennels, and in caring for them, owner Greg Meredith has run up over $150,000 in expenses. That includes not only the standards of food and water, but surgeries for injuries sustained on the field. In addition, many of the dogs were on Prozac and other drugs to treat PTSD that had been caused by combat experience. Most of the dogs have now been weaned off the medications.
“They’ve been abandoned. This is not the life that they deserve, nor is it how this country should take care of its soldiers,” Meredith told NBC station WWBT.
The groups Mission K9 Rescue and The United States War Dogs Association have now come forward to help Meredith with the dogs. They’re working to reunite the dogs with their handlers, and in fact, have already done so with some of them.
There’s still the matter of all of Meredith’s debts, though. He says that he doesn’t regret all the effort and money he’s put into the dogs, even though he doesn’t think he’ll see it again. To him, it’s the simple responsibility to dogs who have served just like human soldiers. “It’s the least that we can do to take care of them, because they’ve taken very good care of us, to protect our freedoms,” he told WWBT.
That responsibility to veterans is rarely acted on by Americans. He shouldn’t be buried in debt for taking care of 12 dogs who needed homes and special care, just as the families of human veterans shouldn’t be destroyed by the burden of paying to care for rehabilitation from physical injuries or mental health problems.
A GoFundMe account has been created for those who want to help Meredith out with his debts. As of right now, there’s almost $22,000, but there’s still a long way to go to make up for that year and a half of care. If the original handlers can’t be found, those interested in adopting a former working military dog can find forms on the Mission K9 site. And if you just want to keep track of the story, a Facebook community called Mount Hope K9 Warrior Rescue has been formed.
There’s an old saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Hopefully, that won’t be true in the case of Greg Meredith.
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