War Dogs Remembered – Recognizing Our Unsung Canine Heroes

August 2, 2011 · Posted in Service Dogs · Comment 
wardogs monument

I recently had the pleasure of visiting with veteran military dog handler, Larry Chilcoat on Working Like Dogs at www.PetLifeRadio.com. Larry, a member of the Vietnam Dog Handlers Association, stopped by to visit with me about the ongoing efforts to build a Military Working Dogs National Monument.

It is amazing the amount of work and dedication that a group of individuals led by John Burnham and Larry have contributed to erect the Military Working Dogs National Monument. Through their efforts, they have designed and secured a space for this national monument at Fort Belvoir, Virginia that will honor the heroic past, present and future United States military dog handlers and their incredible working dogs.

Larry explained the difference between a national monument (a living representation that can honor military dogs both past, present and future which requires Senate, Congressional and Presidential approval) and a memorial (a tombstone for people or dogs that are deceased). Larry and his team members gained a Congressional Sponsor in Congressman Walter B. Jones of North Carolina. With his help, they have completed the approval process which was signed into law by President Bush in 2008. Now, the group has to raise the more than $900,000 to pay for the construction and placement.

I could still hear the love in Larry’s voice as he talked about his 85-pound German shepherd, Military Police Dog, Gisha. He served with Gisha for one year in Vietnam and the impact this dog had on his life could be felt in the way he reminisced about her.

As Larry so eloquently said, she has lived in his heart for over 40 years.

Larry believes that he and other fellow veterans are now in a position to make a difference, to have a something permanent to honor these dogs for all time and to make a united statement that they are an important part of the U.S. Military. Larry said passionately, “The memories don’t go away, which is why it is so exciting to do something that will benefit a lot of handlers that don’t have this opportunity… we’ll put something out there for the nation to know what role these dogs play and how long they have sacrificed for our country and how many lives they’ve saved.”

These military working dogs do so much to save and to protect our country and the lives of their military handlers. The men and women who serve bravely beside their canine partners are the unsung heroes that provide us with the freedom we too often take for granted. Tentatively, a dedication date has been scheduled for Veteran’s Day 2012. If you would like to contribute a tax deductible donation to the Military Working Dogs National Monument, please visit their web site at www.jbmf.us. To hear more about the efforts to build this worthy Military Working Dogs National Monument, tune in to Working Like Dogs’ Episode 46 – War Dogs Remembered at www.petliferadio.com.

How to Choose the Best Chew Toy for Your Assistance Dog

August 1, 2011 · Posted in Assistance Dogs, Equipment/Supplies · Comment 
chew toy

Toys are an important part of your assistance dog’s overall health and well-being. Having appropriate, engaging chew toys is important not only for entertainment but it can also support their dental health and ease anxiety.

I don’t know about you but when I got my first assistance dog, I did not have much experience with highly trained dogs and I was unsure about what were the best chew toys on the market.

Over the years, I have learned the hard way but I came across an article about chew toys this year in the Cornell University DOG Watch publication. The article provides an array of information about selecting the best chew toy.

As we all know, there are an endless variety of dog toys on the market but not all toys are right for your dog. Every dog has his or her own preference in toys. However, the key thing you need to keep in mind is safety first.

When choosing a toy best suited for your dog, you want to think about:

  • Is your dog young or extremely active?
  • Does he have any food allergies?
  • What size is your dog?
  • Is he a dedicated chewer or does he prefer to carry around a stuffed toy?

Most chew toys fall into the following categories:

  • Rawhide
  • Dental Chews
  • Nylabones and Kongs
  • Puzzle Toys
  • Stuffed Toys and Rope Toys

Rawhides are just like it sounds, cured animal hide shaped into strips or bones. Most dogs love them and gobble them up. Be aware that rawhides soften when chewed and can become lodged in your dog’s throat. You need to be cautious and monitor your dog as they enjoy a rawhide.

Dental Chews can help to prevent periodontal disease by helping to clean your dog’s teeth and freshen their breath. They certainly do not replace brushing your dog’s teeth but they can play an important part in a healthy dental routine. CET chews, Hextra chews, DentaBones, and Greenies are just a few on the market.

Nylabones and Kongs – Nylabones are made from nylon, resins, hard-packed rubber and other synthetic materials. They are similar to regular bones but they won’t usually splinter or break as easily. Kongs are extremely durable toys made of hard rubber. You can even insert your dog’s favorite treat into some kongs such peanut butter, cream cheese, dog toothpaste, etc. Kongs stuffed with a special treat are great to encourage your dog to lick and chew. This oral stimulation will hopefully help them to relax and rest.

Puzzle Toys engage your dog’s mind, paws, nose and teeth. It will depend on your dog’s preference whether or not he appreciates the stimulation or if he simply gets frustrated and becomes uninterested.

Stuffed Toys and Rope Toys are best for gentler dogs. These types of stuffed toys can be very dangerous for dogs with a strong prey drive. Keep a close eye on the squeaker inside these types of toys. It can become a choking hazard for your dog. Rope toys can be fun but be sure to keep the ends knotted. If it becomes untied, your dog may shred and ingest it, resulting in digestive problems.

It is best to have a variety of all of these types of toys available for your dog. Whistle has to pick up his toys and store them in one of two toy boxes in our house. We regularly go through his toy boxes and donate any toys that he no longer seems interested in to our local animal shelter.

As Cornell University’s article stated, the two key things that I need to remember when selecting a chew toy for my assistance dog are:

  • Everything in moderation…and with supervision.
  • There is no substitute for human interaction.

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (February 2011) “How to Choose the Best Chew Toy”. DOG Watch. 15(2): 1.

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