Adopting an MWD

April 28, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Dogs, Military | 2 Comments

Yesterday I posted about what happens to Military Working Dogs (MWDs) when they “retire” from active duty. In the past MWDs who could no longer work (either for the military or civilian law enforcement agencies) were euthanized, but today it is possible for an MWD to be adopted.

One common misconception about MWD adoption is that only handlers can adopt an MWD. This is not true. Civilians can apply to adopt MWDs. However, they are generally at the bottom of the priority list. In some cases, MWDs will leave the military through transfer to a civilian law enforcement agency. Sometimes this happens when the MWD can still “work”, but needs an easier schedule than they would have in the military. Other times this happens when a dog shows promise but can’t complete the military certification process quickly enough. For example, dogs must be trained in 120 days in the Air Force. Civilian law enforcement agencies will then devote additional time to training and certifying the dog.

If a dog is due to be retired from the military and transfer to a civilian law enforcement agency isn’t possible, there is a chance of adoption. However, first the military must decide if the dog is suitable for adoption. Not all MWDs will be suitable. Due to the nature of their jobs, many MWDs come from lines that have been bred to include a certain amount of aggression. Depending on the individual dog and their experiences, this aggression may be at a level that they just aren’t safe to be a household pet.

Although MWDs approved for adoption by the military may end up with civilians, they also just might be adopted by their handler. The K9 handler bond is very strong. This story contained the following quotes from one handler about the bond with his dog:

“These dogs are like our children. I’m closer to my dog than I am to anyone other than my wife,” said Staff Sgt. Charles W. Graves, the kennel master at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad.

“If they took him out, I’d kinda wish they’d take me out too,” Graves, a former police officer from Oroville, Calif., said as Udo loped nearby. With each successful find, Udo was rewarded with a toss of his favorite toy, a rubber cone.

The second quote might be a bit extreme- I don’t know enough handlers to take a survey of how many feel the same. However, I have read in several different places that handlers can request to be buried with their K9 partner if they are both killed and in July of 2007 Cpl Kory D. Wiens and his MWD Cooper were buried together.

I don’t think anyone would argue that the handlers should have the “right of first refusal” for adopting a retiring MWD. These types of adoptions do occur, but sometimes MWDs like do become available for civilian adoption. If you are interested in the possibility of adopting an MWD, be sure to check out this site. Good articles on adopting MWDs have also been published in the Army Times and Stars and Stripes. Check it out. Maybe you can find your Jenny.

(I wonder if Abby and Mr. Abby have thought about adding an MWD to the Bad Dog family?)



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  1. Glad to know that they aren’t just thrown to the wolves.

    We saw a demonstration at Fort Lewis, and they are amazing.

  2. I remember you talking about going to the demonstration. I haven’t gotten to see the MWDs in action “live”. Just the drug sniffing dogs DARE would bring out to a summer camp I volunteered at- they were fun to watch.

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