American troops may be starting to come home this summer, but more dogs are going in. In 2007, the Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number that has grown to 350 and is expected to reach nearly 650 by the end of the year.
There are an estimate 2700 war dog teams in the military and about 700 are in the Middle East. These amazing dogs are trained for patrol, search, explosive detection and apprehension. Our Wrangler National Patriot Team is spending time with these dogs, learning how the handler and dog work as a team. "Canine service members and their handlers fall into such a unique category of resiliency "says Robi Powers, founding member of American300", you have to take care of both the dog and the handler as a team and individually in order to provide any real benefit to either". "One of the biggest mistakes supporters can make is in addressing the dogs or handlers individually, says Powers, it'd be like thanking the Colonel through Majors without caring about the Sargent Majors and Tops, that's just not gonna happen on an American300 resiliency tour."
Robi knew bringing Lucas Hoge on the Wrangler National Patriot tour was a perfect fit, knowing he wanted to shed more light on our War Dogs. American300 is focused on unique opportunities and when we can bring over an animal support celebrity like Lucas Hoge it's a win win or both us and them.
"Being around these world class Wrangler cowboys and girls has been amazing, Wrangler is first class and allowing us to come here and give away fun Wrangler gifts, having troops sign the Wrangler National Patriot Flag and the best part, making new friends, with our troops, has been so rewarding" Along with hoedowns and roping chairs, Wrangler style, Lucas has been spending time with various Canine units on several different bases. Lucas has always had a love of dogs and when Animal Planet asked him to be a part of the "Last Chance Highway" 8 part series last summer, Lucas jumped at the chance. The show focused on not just rescuing dogs, but rehabilitation, finding the right fit between dog and their new forever home and then the actual transport, thousands of miles up north for the delivery and first meeting of dog and owner, face to face. "I witnessed hundreds of first time meetings and the joy, tears and smiles on the faces of the new owners when they held their new dog in their arms for the first time was priceless and a bond that was swift and strong". "Now I am seeing another type of bond between handler and dog, and this bond is like no other I have ever seen", Lucas added.
"After spending the day running attack drills with the dogs, I learned of their Military War Dog Promise":
Military War Dog Promise
My eyes are your eyes to watch and protect you and yours.
My ears are your ears to hear and detect evil minds in the dark.
My nose is your nose to scent the invader of your domain.
And so you may live, my life is also yours
The handlers and dogs work in the most extreme conditions, heat and cold, wind and and dust storms, they train everyday together and work side by side as a team, a team that is inspiring and what American300 tours are all about.
"It touches my heart and to see these dogs actually DO what you read above, it's truly memorizing to whiteness it first hand," says Lucas, now a spokesperson for Guardian Angles For Soldiers Pet. After working on the TV show, and with my love of our military, it was a perfect fit. Guardian Angles focuses on fostering pets of our military while they are on deployment over seas. This insures that their pet will be safe while they are gone. Unfortunately, some people don't have a family member or neighbor that can take care of their dog for 6 months to a year, this is when Guardian Angles steps in.
Corporal Liam Tasker was the 358th serviceman killed in the conflict while his dog Theo was the sixth British military hound to die in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. In life, they were united in their tireless work saving countless British soldiers in Afghanistan.
In death, they were united in tragedy.
Shortly after Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was killed in a firefight with the Taliban, his devoted Army search dog Theo suffered a seizure and passed away too. This is the type of bond that lives with our Canine Units everyday, these dogs have saved the lives of our service men and women and they too are soldiers. Lucas, America's Ambassador of Canine Care, was on sight, suited up and then taken down by the same dog that has sniffed out over 30 bombs, saving the lives of his handlers. "Although I was being attacked by him, I was smiling the whole time, seeing their strength, their desire to protect, their ability and technique and their love of their handler was something we don't get to whiteness every day". "I can't thank Wrangler enough for this experience and I hope I will get to join them next year as well. "Wrangler, American300, our War Dogs and most importantly our Troops go above and beyond and I want to show my appreciation when ever I can!"