Honoring our War Dogs and their handlers on Memorial Weekend...
The German Shepherd dog has been 'serving' in the military - officially - since March 13, 1942. A recruitment program was initiated for citizens to donate their puppies to the war effort. Following a series of tests, if they passed, they served and if not the dogs were returned to their owners. In total at the end of WWII Dogs for Defense had recruited and trained over 15,000 dogs.
However, it was Captain Max von Stephanitz (German Army), between 1899 and 1914 who introduced the German Shepherd dog as a military working dog. He loaned his dogs to the German Police to try out this new breed of dog. They displayed all that we have come to know and love in the GSD and Stephanitz then moved to have them included as a military dog as well.
The GSD began his 'career' in the German Military in WWI. Impressed by their fearless, heroic acts both friend and foe began developing their own programs with the German Shepherd dogs. Of course we cannot honor just the German Shepherd dog, six other breeds of dogs were added to the K9 military training teams - Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Siberian Huskies, Farm Collies, Eskimo Dogs and Malamutes - today we honor them all.
The GSD continued to serve his nation throughout the many wars following WWII.
However, following a public outcry after the Vietnam War, were the War Dog was considered equipment and many where disposed of as such, the military promised never to dispose of our K9 heroes in the same manner again. Eventually a bill passed by Congress, and eventually an amendment was signed by President Bill Clinton in Nov 2000 that would ensure that our K9 heroes and friends' would enjoy a dignified retirement. In addition it would allow the adoption of retired military working dogs to be adopted/placed with former handlers and other qualified civilians.
As we approach another Memorial Day, we honor our fallen heroes and their families.
All those men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice to secure our safety and freedom - we thank you and we honor you.
We also pay tribute to our K9 German Shepherds and all animals who have served and fallen. They saved many lives...and we will remember them all...
Sources: MWDTSA "German Shepherd Dogs in the Military: A Brief Historical Overview", "History of Military Dogs: The German Shepherd" by Wayne Simanovich Trained