K-9 Veterans Day
The Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) salutes all those Military Working Dogs (MWDs) and their handlers on this K-9 Veterans Day.
MWDs have been around for thousands of years, but a stray dog snuck onto a troop transport ship during WWI became the first K-9 WMD. He followed his owner into battle in France and they both made it home after the war. “Stubby” died in 1926, having received a service medal personally from General John J. Pershing.
More recently, K-9 dogs have been utilized in both military and law enforcement scenarios. In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, they detected mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Their service has saved many lives.
K-9 handlers are an elite group in the Armed Forces, with approximately 650 handlers worldwide. While handlers become very attached to their MWDs, for various reasons handlers do not stay with the same dogs their entire careers. The dogs usually stay at one site, whereas the handlers move where the Armed Forces tell them to. Handlers also retire or leave the Armed Forces, in which case they have to leave their MWD behind.
Such was the case for SSG Angela Lowe, who had to medically retire from the Air Force due to multiple spine surgeries and the subsequent inability to work with MWDs. Her dog, Szultan, stayed at his duty location, and she moved. For a while, she kept up with Szultan through handler friends, but after moving across the country to Pittsburgh to continue her education, Lowe lost touch with news of her dog.
Four years after leaving the Air Force, she received an email from Szultan’s current handler, who told her the dog was retiring and needed a home. Current military policy allows handlers to request to adopt a certain dog upon his/her retirement. She jumped at the opportunity, but then discovered she only had two weeks to retrieve him from Charleston, South Carolina. Due to her medical needs, she couldn’t make such a long trip. So she turned to a nonprofit called Mission K9 Rescue who provides a service reuniting Military handlers with their beloved dogs.
“Once the dog retires, no matter where they are, they are not considered a military service member anymore. They have become a pet, not a vet,” said Kristen Maurer, president of Mission K9 Rescue. “The military is not allowed to put a pet on a flight, so they’ll ask us to step in and get the dog.”
Maurer offered to fly Szultan to Pittsburgh, but that idea was a nonstarter; according to Lowe, Szultan’s behavioral issues would cause a problem if he flew. The team flew from Texas to South Carolina, retrieved Szultan and drove him to Pittsburgh. Lowe was waiting for him outside her home, and hugged him tightly. “Welcome to the pack, bud,” she crooned.
“Having him come back suddenly is like having a piece of the Air Force with me,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the summer, when I can go sit on a patio and have a couple of drinks with my buddy, Szultan.”
The VLB salutes all handlers like SSG Lowe, and Military Working Dogs like Szultan. These K-9 teams keep Military Members safe around the world, and we are so grateful for their service.
The VLB is happy to provide any needed help for these American heroes. The mission for the VLB is “to ensure that we offer the very best package of Veterans benefits in the country and those of us who work for the VLB strive to meet those goals every day. For more than 70 years, we have had the honor to serve Veterans, Military Members and their families in Texas, and we look forward to keeping that promise in the years to come.” Call 1–800–252–8387, email VLBinfo@glo.texas.gov, or visit vlb.texas.gov to see the different benefits available.