Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach, while serving in Afghanistan, made a promise to Casey, the explosive-detecting yellow Lab who worked alongside him.
“I promised her if we made it out of alive, I’d do whatever it took to find her,” Gundlach said.
Gundlach, after completing his military service and enrolling at the University of Wisconsin, managed to find out that Casey had finished her military service and been sent to work for the state of the Iowa, detecting explosives.
Knowing it was probably just the first round of a long bureaucratic battle, Gundlach wrote to State Fire Marshal Director Ray Reynolds, explaining the connection he felt with the four-year-old dog who’d been both lifesaver and companion. Gundlach wears a tattoo on his right forearm depicting Casey with angel wings and a halo.
But, as reported by the Associated Press, things happened quickly.
“He’s been putting a case together for the last two months, sending me pictures,” Reynolds said. “ … It just tugged on your heart.”
Reynolds got in touch with the Iowa Elk’s Association, and it agreed to donate $8,500 to buy another dog for the fire marshal’s office.
Then, he got in touch with Gundlach, telling him that he needed to come to the state Capitol in Des Moines on Friday to plead his case before a “bureaucratic oversight committee.”
Gundlach, 25, showed up with his parents.
Reynolds told Gundlach the meeting had been delayed, but invited he and his parents to attend an Armed Services Day celebration in the rotunda.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilians were already there, and knew — unlike Gundlach — what was about to happen.
That’s when Casey appeared.
A ceremony was held in which Gov. Terry Branstad officially retired Casey from active duty, thanking her for “a job well done.”
Casey was given to Gundlach, who put his head in his hands and cried.
“It was a total surprise,” he said. “I owe her. I’ll just try to give her the best life I can.” During the 150 missions they performed together, Gundlach said Casey never missed an explosive. He credits her for making it back home safely. “I wouldn’t be here … any kids I ever had wouldn’t exist if Casey hadn’t been here,” he said.
His father, Glen Gundlach, seemed just as surprised.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The state of Iowa, I love ‘em.”
(Photos: Charlie Neibergall / AP)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 20th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, armed services day, bureaucracy, capitol, casey, des moines, detecting, dog, dogs, explosives, fire, government, iowa, marine, marshal, military, pets, ray reynolds, reunion, reunited, ross gundlach, state
60 Minutes looked at bomb-sniffing dogs in a report that, especially given last night’s other featured stories — on the Marathon bombing and the 9/11 Memorial — brought home not just how many lives they’ve saved in the military overseas, but how many more they might save here.
Reporter Lara Logan focused on the dogs of war, and the trainers that describe their canines as nearly infallible when it comes to detecting bombs.
But they’re not so infallible when explosive devices are planted after the dogs have made their sweeps, as apparently was the case at the Boston Marathon.
“Would an average police dog have found these bombs at the Boston Marathon …?” she asked trainer Mike Ritland.
“…Based on what I do know, yes,” Ritland said. “If dogs went through the areas where they were placed– you know, your average, certified police bomb dog should have found them. My thoughts are if these guys (the suspects) are paying close attention to these dogs, they’re waiting. And when the dogs leave, they bring it in, they hand– they infiltrate, essentially, they drop it right where it’s busy, and very soon after, it detonates.”
As the “60 Minutes” piece pointed out, since 9/11 dogs have been used more than ever because nothing is more effective in finding hidden bombs. Dogs in the employ of the military and FBI have sniffed out bombs, captured enemies, and one assisted Navy SEAL Team 6 when it took down Osama bin Laden. Much more of what they do, given the often secretive nature of their work, never becomes known.
“The best of them serve with U.S. Special Operations and they’re in a league of their own,” Logan noted. “It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to talk about them publicly because much of what they do is classified, but we were able to talk to the people who train them for this story. We took the opportunity to ask about what might have happened in Boston while getting a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of America’s most elite dogs.”
(One member of the “60 Minutes” team — in a segment not shown on the air but featured on 60minutesovertime.com – even volunteered to be chased down by a military dog in training in Texas. Producer Reuben Heyman-Kantor, in the video above, tried to outrun the dog, but was brought down quickly.)
In her interview with former Navy SEAL Ritland, who now finds and trains dogs for Special Operations and top tier units in the FBI, Logan asked, ”What can these dogs do on the streets of America?”
“The very same thing that they do for our boys overseas in that they detect explosives– they are a fantastic deterrent– they use their nose to find, you know, people as well,” Ritland said.
“Everybody knows that dogs can smell better than humans but what they don’t realize is that if you and I walk into the kitchen and there’s a pot of beef stew on the counter, you and I smell beef stew. A dog smells potatoes, carrots, beef, onion, celery, gravy, flour. They smell each and every individual component of everything that’s in that beef stew. And they can separate everyone one of those. You can’t hide anything from them. It won’t work because you can’t fool a dog’s nose.”
Ritland now trains dogs on his 20-acre ranch in rural Cooper, Texas, runs the Warrior Dog Foundation for retired war dogs, and is the author of “Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines.”
Ritland says its important — amid these days of budget cuts — to remember what lifesavers the dogs can be, both in wars and at home.
In Afghanistan, according to the report, 42 dogs have been killed in action. They’ve become so effective that the enemy is singling them out. A Taliban commander told “60 Minutes” that on his last operation they were ordered to open fire on the American dogs first, and deal with the soldiers next.
Logan visited what she said was one of only three breeders in the U.S. who produce dogs — almost always the Belgian Malinois — for top tier military units.
She also interviewed Green Beret Chris Corbin who, along with his dog Ax, almost died on their final mission in Afghanistan.
Corbin said he missed a signal from the dog while searching for mines. Ax was alerting to Corbin’s foot, but Corbin realized it too late. He lost both his lower legs. Ax was not wounded. Both returned to duty.
Ax was at Corbin’s side during the interview, and rarely took his eyes off his former partner as he described their first reunion after the blast.
“I just said something simple. ‘Hey, where’s my boy at?’ and he stopped. He froze. He looked around. And he went into a panic until he found me and he jumped on my legs. Painful. Just– I was just happy to see him. I didn’t care how much it hurt.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 60 minutes, 911, animals, ax, belgian malinois, bomb, bombing, bombs, boston marathon, budget, chris corbin, cutbacks, detecting, detection, dog, dogs, explosive, fbi, green beret, homeland security, ied, lara logan, law enforcement, mike ritland, military, mines, navy seal, news, nose, pets, searches, security, smell, sniffing, special operations, sweeps, training
Sergeant Rex, a bomb-sniffing dog who finally returned from duty in Iraq earlier this year and was reunited with his former handler, died Saturday at the age of 11.
Rex was assigned to Cpl. Megan Leavey in 2006 when, on a patrol in Iraq, the dog alerted his handler of a nearby bomb. Both tried to run away, but it detonated, injuring them both.
Leavey left the Marine Corps in Dec. 2007, but Sergeant Rex continued to serve. She tried to adopt the dog, but was unable to for years because he remained on duty after recovering from his injuries.
This year, when Rex was retired due to facial paralysis, Leavey renewed her efforts, receiving support form U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and an online petition that received more than 20,000 signatures. In March, Leavey received permission to adopt him. They were reunited in April.
Leavey, who lives in New York, announced Rex’s death last week on her Facebook page:
“Unfortunately today at 10:56 a.m. Rex passed away. I was faced with the decision that no pet owner wants to hear, but I know I made the right choice. This is all very sudden and thankfully he did not suffer for long, this all came about late last night.
“I am so grateful for the last eight months I got to spend with my partner and my best friend. Rex got to swim in a pool and play with my other dogs. He got to roam the yard and bark at deer, play with as many toys as he wanted all day everyday, sleep in a cozy bed next to me every night, chase and eventually make friends with my two cats, enjoy and play in his first snowfall … and so much other great stuff that he would have never had the chance to do if he was never retired.
“He knew I was with him the whole time and I laid next to him and held him and spoke to him and he was at peace in the end. He is now my guardian angel … even though he already was. So thank you to everyone who supported me and made it possible for me to spend those precious 8 months with my best friend.
“He was one hell of a dog, one tough ass Marine, and one very special soul. He will no doubt be greatly missed and never forgotten.”
A book about Rex came out this year, entitled “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog.” It was written by Mike Dowling, another one of Sergeant Rex’s handlers.
Rex searched more than 6,220 vehicles while stationed in Iraq, the Marine Corps says.
The publishers of the new book noted his passing in a Facebook post this week:
“Rest in peace Rex and thank you for your service and sacrifice. Once a Marine, Always a Marine … Semper Fi,” they wrote.
(Photo of Rex and Leavey from tribute posted at Findagrave.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bomb, bombs, bond, book, death, died, dog, handler, handlers, ied, iraq, megan leavey, mike dowling, military, reunion, reunited, sergeant rex, sniffing, war
Chuck Shuck was star struck, but his dog Gabe took meeting Betty White in stride, as you might expect from a weapons sniffing dog who conducted 210 combat missions in Iraq.
Gabe, the American Humane Association’s “Hero Dog of the Year,” received his award last month in Los Angeles. (The ceremony will be shown on the Hallmark Channel at 8 p.m. this coming Thursday, Nov. 8.) Betty White was honored with two awards during the event.
“That was the highlight,” Gabe’s handler, Sgt. 1st Class Charles “Chuck” Shuck told The State. “Just to be in her presence was amazing.” Gabe, he said “was just his normal self, but I did get him to bark during the standing ovation.”
Another highlight was the grand prize — $10,000 that Shuck will use to support other service dogs and handlers now fighting in Afghanistan.
Now 10 years old, the Lab mix was rescued as a puppy from a Houston shelter the day before he was to be euthanized.
His luck continued in Iraq, where, in 2006, he and Shuck survived when a roadside bomb struck the vehicle they were riding in.
Shuck, 33, is now a Senior Drill Sergeant Leader at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. Gabe, who eventually became sensitive to the sound of explosions and guns, was retired. Since then, he’s gone from 67 pounds to 98 pounds.
About 3 million votes were cast in the hero dog competition.
Betty White received two awards from American Humane Association, the National Humanitarian Medal and the Legacy Award, for dedicating herself to protecting and improving the quality of life for animals.
You can find the American Humane Association’s news release about the ceremony — and information about the other finalists — here.
(Photo: At top, White and Gabe, courtesy of Charles Shuck; above left, Shuck and Gabe, file photo from The State)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american humane association, animals, awards, betty white, ceremony, charles shuck, detecting, dog, dogs, explosives, fort jackson, gabe, hallmark, hero dogs, honors, iraq, military, pets, sniffing, television
The first national monument paying tribute to military dogs will be unveiled in California in two months before going on tour on the way to its final destination – Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
The U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument will honor dogs that have served in combat since World War II.
While there are other sculpted memorials to military dogs, this one is the first to be proclaimed a national monument, according to the Associated Press.
It was a reader who suggested a monument, and Burnam saw that as an idea worth pushing.
“I wanted to give something back to these animals that have done so much and asked for so little, except for food and water and the love of their handlers,” said Burnam, who received the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
In 2004, Burnam and two other veterans formed the John Burnam Monument Foundation Inc. In 2007, Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., introduced legislation authorizing establishment of the monument. Passed unanimously by Congress, it was signed the next year by President George W. Bush, then amended and signed by President Barack Obama.
Burnam designed the monument, which depicts a handler and four dogs — a Doberman, German shepherd, Labrador retriever and Belgian Malinois.
The silicon bronze handler stands more than 9 feet tall and weighs 1,500 pounds. Each dog is about 5 feet tall and weighs 550 pounds. The sculptor, Paula Slater, says she has spent thousands of hours on the project.
Primary funding for the project is being supplied by Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. To raise funds for the monument and its maintenance, Natural Balance created a jerky treat sold by Petco. Maddie’s Fund, a pet rescue foundation, also signed on as a corporate sponsor.
A floral replica of the sculpture, in the form of a float, will be part of the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1, and among those riding on it will be Burnam, dogs and handlers from every military service branch.
The monument will then go on temporary display next to the float at Victory Park. After that, it will hit the road, headed for Lackland Air Force Base, where most of the nation’s military dogs are trained.
(Photos: At top, a model of the U.S. Working Dogs Teams National Monument, courtesy of John Burnam Monument Foundation; above left, handler John Burnam and sculptor Paula Slater stand with the military dog handler that will be part of the monument, courtesy of Natural Balance)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 31st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, doberman, dogs, german shepherd, handlers, john burnam, Labrador retriever and Belgian Malinois. paula slater, lackland, lackland air force base, military, monument, national, national monument, natural balance, pets, sculpture, statue, teams, tribute, war
They don’t look like anything you’d want to snuggle with after a hard day on the battlefield, but here are the latest versions of robotic dogs being developed for the U.S. military.
The Boston Dynamics AlphaDog robots are intended to haul gear for soldiers traveling on foot over rugged terrains.
They can interpret and respond to both verbal and visual commands, follow a leader, get back on all four legs after a fall, and walk up to 3 miles per hour over rocky terrain, 5 miles per hour on a flat surface. Eventually, developers say, their top speed will be around 7 miles per hour.
They are still a little loud to sneak up on an ememy, but they’re 10 times quieter than the previous versions, NBC reports.
The robotic dogs are being developed by Boston Dynamics for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
They both share the same name — Legged Squad Support System, or LS3 for short.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 13th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alpha dog, alphadog, animals, boston dynamics, canine, commands, darpa, defenseadvanced research projects agency, dogs, gear, legged squad support system, ls3, military, pack, pack animals, pets, robotic dogs, robotics, robots, transporting, war
The reunion took place at Lackland Air Force base in Texas last week, and the eight-year-old dog is now home with Logan Black.
Black, 34, launched a campaign on Facebook to persuade the Air Force to retire Diego and let him adopt him, KCTV in Kansas City reports. The retired soldier says Diego saved his life, several times, in Iraq.
“This feels fantastic,” Black said. “I’ve been waiting for those for a really long time.”
Black trained Diego and they served on nearly 40 missions in Iraq in 2006, searching for hidden weapons and homemade bombs.
Five years after they sent separate ways, Black said he still missed the dog. He began a search for Diego and learned that he was working at Lackland AFB, helping train other bomb-sniffing dogs.
“No doubt Diego would have found a home somewhere, but a home with me is different than with a totally new stranger,” Black said.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 14th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adopted, animals, bomb, bond, campaign, detecting, diego, dog, dogs, facebook, handler, home, humans, iraq, lackland, logan black, military, pets, reunion, reunited, search, sniffing, veteran
The founder of Paws and Stripes — a nonprofit organization that provides disabled veterans with service dogs — says both he and his service dog, Sarge, were mistreated by United Airlines.
After waiting 48 hours in Dulles Airport due to cancellations and delays, Jim Stanek said he approached a ticket counter to get help understanding his revised itinerary.
He says he explained was having difficulty reading it.
“He said, ‘Just read it’ and I said, ‘Sir I can’t read it,’ and he said, ‘What are you retarded?’” Stanek recalled.
Wounded in battle, Stanek suffers from a brain injury that makes it difficult for him to concentrate under stress.
In addition to the insult, Stanek says, Sarge was kicked twice by United employees, leaving her “shaking like a leaf. It’s like she has PTSD.”
Stanek said the second, and harder kick came on a shuttle bus that was taking him from one terminal to another. An employee in a United uniform kicked the dog, he said.
“He said he was afraid of dogs,” Stanek said. “(He) kicked her so hard on the rib cage, that she literally jumped up into my lap.”
Stanek is encouraging others to register their concerns about how he and his dog were treated.
“I’m not asking for a red carpet, just treat me the way I’m supposed to be treated,” he said in a video he put together, recounting the incident.
Paws and Stripes works to provide service dogs for veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. The dogs are obtained only from shelters, and are trained by professionals to become service dogs.
Here’s Stanek’s account of what happened:
Posted by jwoestendiek July 25th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: airlines, animals, dog, dogs, founder, insulted, jim stanek, kicked, military, mistreated, paws and stripes, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, service dogs, shelter, united airlines, veterans
Warning: This video is graphic and disturbing
The Coast Guard is defending its practice of using live animals for combat medical training after PETA released a video this week of goats having their legs removed with tree trimmers during a training exercise.
A Coast Guard spokesman, while not commenting on whether those on the video were Coast Guard or Coast Guard-hired personnel, confirmed that live anesthetized goats are used in training, according to the Associated Press.
“Animals used in trauma training are supported and monitored by well-trained, experienced veterinary staff to ensure that appropriate anesthesia and analgesia prevent them from experiencing pain or distress,” Lt. Cmdr. Jamie C. Frederick, spokesman for the Atlantic Area, told the AP after PETA released the video and called on the Pentagon to stop the practice.
A congressman also has introduced legislation that would phase out the use of animals by the military for such training.
PETA said the undercover video it released from a whistleblower shows military instructors contracted by the Coast Guard cutting off an anesthetized goat’s legs in Virginia Beach.
In the video, the faces of the participants are blurred and they are not in uniform. The goat is motionless while its legs are cut, but it later makes a noise and moves, at which point one of the men asks for another “bump” of anesthesia.
“Effective combat trauma training and treatment results in lowering the fatality rate of U.S. troops deployed in combat situations,” Frederick said.
Other branches of the military use similar training on goats and pigs and have defended it as a way to replicate wartime injuries and prepare medics and front-line troops for treating catastrophic injuries, according to the AP report.
PETA says the practice is cruel and unnecessary — and that similar results could be gained by using simulation instead of live animals.
“Learning how to apply a tourniquet on a severed goat’s leg does not help prepare medical providers to treat an anatomically different human being wounded on the battlefield,” according to Dr. Michael P. Murphy, one of several medical professionals who signed a letter PETA sent to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seeking an end to the practice. Murphy is an associate professor of surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves who served two tours of duty in Iraq.
PETA has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate whether the training practices violate the Animal Welfare Act.
“With these animals, they can break their limbs, or they want to simulate broken bones or a gunshot wound, and it’s not clear if they’re anesthetized or not,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, a California Democrat who has introduced legislation that would phase out such use of animals by the military. “You’re torturing animals when you don’t have to.”
According to PETA, more than 10,000 live animals are shot, stabbed, mutilated, and killed in military training exercises each year.
“But the training exercises that are taking place in these highly secret courses bear no resemblance to real battlefield conditions — and they don’t help soldiers save the lives of their injured comrades,” the organizaton noted.
The undercover video footage leaked to PETA shows a Coast Guard training course in Virginia Beach, where members of a company called Tier 1 Group, hired by the military, are seen breaking and cutting off the limbs of live goats with tree trimmers, stabbing the animals, and pulling out their internal organs.
One instructor can be heard whistling on the video as he cuts off goat’s legs and a Coast Guard participant jokes about writing songs about mutilating the animals. Later in the day, according to the whistleblower who came to PETA, goats were shot in the face with pistols and hacked apart with an ax while still alive.
“Cruel exercises like these continue regularly across the U.S. even though most civilian facilities and many military facilities have already replaced animal laboratories with superior lifelike simulators that breathe, bleed, and even ‘die,’” PETA said.
“Unlike mutilating and killing animals, training on simulators allows medics and soldiers to practice on accurate anatomical models and repeat vital procedures until all trainees are confident and proficient.”
PETA says those wishing to voice opposition to the practice can contact U.S. Department of Defense officials.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 19th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: amputations, anesthetized, animal welfare, animals, coast guard, combat, cut off, department of defense, disturbing, goats, graphic, legs, live, medical, military, pentagon, people for the ethical treatment of animals, peta, simulations, simulators, surgery, tier 1, training, tree trimmers, undercover, video, warning, whistleblower
Former Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey and retired military service dog Rex were reunited Tuesday in New York, bringing a successful end to Leavey’s long campaign to adopt her former partner.
“I’m so happy,” Leavey, 28, told the Journal News from her Valley Cottage home Wednesday afternoon. “I was nervous at first that maybe he wouldn’t recognize me, but it was like no time has passed.”
Leavey and the German shepherd served two tours of duty together in Iraq. Both were injured when an explosive device was detonated near them outside of Ramadi, Iraq, in September 2006
Leavey was discharged from the Marines in December 2007, and she tried to adopt her former partner then. But military officials decided Rex could still make a valuable contribution and didn’t discharge him.
Earlier this year, however, Rex, then the oldest working dog at Camp Pendleton, was diagnosed with facial palsy, a nerve paralysis that left him unable to serve.
Leavey renewed her push to adopt the 10-year-old dog, and got help from Sen. Charles Schumer’s office.
Schumer wrote letters to military officials and more than 20,000 people signed a petition urging military officials to allow the adoption.
Officials with the Air Force signed off on the adoption last month.
Wednesday, Leavey and Rex were settling in after flying from California to JFK. By then, she’d introduced him to his new family — a 7-year-old shiba inu named Rocky and a 4-year-old chocolate Labrador named Patriot, and who Leavey handles for a private company.
“It’s like he knows he’s retired. He’s happy,” Leavey said. “We played in the yard the whole morning.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: air force, charles schumer, dog, dogs, german shepherd, injured, iraq, K-9, k9, marines, megan leavey, military, military dogs, partners, petition, retired, reunion, reunited, rex, senator, sergeant rex, sgt. rex, united, video, war