In 2003, Cathy & I had been corresponding
with a handler that had adopted her military dog
Rambo. She told us of her pending return to the "sandbox" but that
she could still email us. After her deployment we sent her a care
package. That night, I mentioned to Cathy, that any care package or
moral support would have been welcomed when I was in Vietnam. It was at
the height of the anti-war movement and military was made to feel like
second class citizens.
We asked Jennifer to check with the
other handlers if they would like an old dawg to have as a pen pal. In a
day she replied with a list of email address. The first handler I asked
was Bill Cummings (Thailand Handler). He was very enthused about
it and suggested several handlers that would probably want to take part.
To the credit of my peer group, no old handler has ever said no.
Within a few days, we received a
email from Jennifer that she had seen "the young pups" in the admin tent
using the computers to write to their "old Dawgs". The program grew and was such a hit with both the old
"dawgs" and young "pups". We adopted and supported handlers from all branches of the military.
We even adopted two coalition handlers from Denmark serving with a
kennels in Kyrgyzstanin, Central Asia.
expanded it to dog handlers from all services, all Security Force
members and our US Army Veterinary Technicians. As one Vet. Tech.
told us, "we keep their tails wagging". Dog handlers have
always been the first line of defense, so it seemed natural to lead the
Our volunteers sent care packages
and corresponded with them. A message or letter every week or so and
perhaps a care package from the US was an excellent way to show these
young men and women that they are appreciated. Yes, we have women handlers in
"Harms Way" also. The military opened the dog program to women
in the 70's. One was severely injured in a Iraqi roadside
Our volunteers are former dog
handlers and members of the VSPA and VDHA (Vietnam Dog Handlers
Association). We have had a surprisingly large numbers of civilians that
have helped also. Cathy & I started fulfilling our dream
of traveling the US in a motor home. Bill Cummings assumed the program.
Under his leadership it has grown with commercial sponsorship to
help out our young pups. A K-9 Supply program has been coordinated and
funded by a group of “Old Dawgs” that are members of the VSPA, VDHA,
or just friends of K-9.