November is a time to remember those who have served in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice to serve and protect. In many cases, these brave men and women are not alone; they are accompanied by highly-trained and loyal canines. Whether it be through armed forces, police services, rescue organizations, or therapy, these dogs work hard to serve the public and make the world a safer place. There's no doubt that these hard-working dogs share a desire to help humans, but they each require specific training to fulfill their duties.
Dogs have been present in combat for much of American history but were not officially recognized as canine soldiers until WWII. These dogs, whose bloodlines go back hundreds of years, are quite literally born for the job, but even with genetic advantages, they need intense training to hone their skills. Complex training techniques are designed to complement the dogs' natural gifts such as intense focus and controlled aggression. Certain breeds can detect weapons, bombs, gases, and drugs with more accuracy than military equipment. When a military dog reaches the end of its useful service, it is offered first to assist law enforcement and next to adoptive families. These faithful canines, who show no fear on the front lines, deserve serious recognition for their heroic acts.
Also known as K-9s, police dogs are specifically trained to assist law-enforcement personnel, often sharing a home with them during off-duty hours. A day in the life of a police dog can include: searching for drugs and explosives, locating missing people, locating crime scene evidence, and protecting their handlers. A successful police dog is intelligent, physically strong, and has an impeccable sense of smell. Police dogs are chosen through a process of selective breeding or by donation from reputable organizations. K-9 training begins with obedience and knowledge commands and leads to training in highly specialized areas of work. K-9 officers are crucial for keeping communities safe, so next time you see man's best friend braving the streets, take a moment to show some well-deserved appreciation.
Search and Rescue Dogs
When disaster strikes, some canines are more than happy to help. Search and rescue dogs are used for wilderness tracking, natural disaster response, and locating missing people. According to the National Association for Search and Rescue, anybody who meets trainer requirements can become a search dog handler with the right canine partner.
One example of an ideal canine partner is the adorable seven-year-old Labrador Retriever named Frida. In September, Mexico was hit with a series of devastating earthquakes, leaving many trapped helplessly under the rubble. Fortunately, Frida, equipped with protective goggles, a khaki harness and two pairs of booties, was on the scene, along with other rescue pups. In her six-year career, Frida has found 41 bodies and 12 survivors following various world-wide disasters. Although she didn't find any survivors in Mexico, Frida was a light in the darkness. "She let us feel like there was hope and that there were things that could help us," said Fatima Laborda, a psychoanalyst and director of a psychological assistance and research organization. Clearly, these intelligent creatures can help us in ways that other humans simply cannot. In the unfortunate event of a disaster, they are more than just hard-working rescuers, they are a powerful symbol of hope.
Support and Service Dogs
Although support, therapy, and service dogs all strive to help people, they are partnered with individuals for specific purposes. BarkPost explains the differences:
- An emotional support dog is a companion who serves as a therapeutic emotional aide (Prescription required)
- A therapy dog brings comfort and affection to others in need (Training and certification required in many cases)
- A service dog is trained to perform specific duties for an individual with a disability (No certification required)
Service dog training occurs in various organizations across the globe. One of these organizations, Dogs with Wings, is a leader in the international community of assistance dog training. Koko&Coco is proud of our long-standing partnership with this Alberta-based organization that strives to serve people with disabilities. Their dogs receive specialized training in several areas including guiding the visually impaired, assisting disabled and autistic individuals, providing companionship, and facilitating health-care, counselling, and victim service treatment. To show our support, each dog collar purchased from KokoandCoco equals one donation of an upcycled pet toy to Dogs with Wings.
Working dogs are truly incredible. From putting their lives on the line to being a shoulder to cry on, they do so much for humans and ask for so little in return. This November, when you're commemorating the brave souls who died in the line of duty, please take a moment to appreciate the loyal companions who eagerly stood by their side.