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When Is K-9 Veterans Day 2023? What Is It & How To Celebrate

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By Nicole Cosgrove

a soldier and a K9 military dog

K-9 dogs are devoted, strong, and trustworthy workers used by the military, police, and other government agencies, and just like human military heroes, they eventually retire as veterans. Veterans are continuously celebrated and honored, and the dogs that served their country should be commemorated too.

National K9 Veterans Day is celebrated on March 13th, which is the official birthday of the US Army K9 Corps. In this article, we’ll discuss this important day, why it’s important, and how you can play a significant role in observing K-9 Veterans Day.

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What is K-9 Veterans Day?

K9 Veterans Day, observed on March 13, is a day to honor all military dogs. It acknowledges the sacrifices and services of military dogs throughout history.

History of K-9 Veterans Day

The Army started training for its new War Dog Program, commonly called the “K-9 Corps,” on March 13, 1942, formally making dogs the first to join the U.S. Armed Forces.

a military dog in the field
Image Credit: Altino Dantas, Unsplash

The Founder of K-9 Veterans Day

Joe White, a Vietnam War veteran from Jacksonville, Florida, founded K-9 Veterans Day. He was a dog handler and trainer who witnessed the heroic service rendered by K-9s throughout the war and was troubled by the now-outlawed practice of euthanizing working dogs after they completed their military duty. He came up with the concept of a holiday honoring military working dogs to spread awareness and show respect for their services.

Since Joe White’s passing on October 24, 2009, his wife has worked to promote this holiday across the country. In 2010, the holiday was formally recognized in New Jersey. To show legislators that the public supports her efforts, supporters from other states signed petitions.

The History of Dogs in the Military

The service of military dogs has spanned centuries. They served the Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Mongolians. Service dogs served as messengers for European armies during World War I. They also carried medical supplies, located fallen soldiers, and dragged supply carts and machine guns.

Military dogs also had various roles during World War II, including scouting, protecting camps and supply lines, and rescuing pilots. The Vietnam War saw the biggest dog deployment in American military history. A few heroic canines that served the armed forces include Sergeant Stubby, the first war dog of World War I. Chips was known as the most decorated dog in WWII, and Cairo became famous when he served in the Bin Laden Raid. 

Why Is K-9 Veterans Day Important?

Since the United States K9 Corps was established in 1942, dogs have served in the military on a formal basis. The border patrol, customs office, police departments, secret service, airport service, and the FBI use canines to safeguard the citizens of the United States and the country.

Military dogs should therefore be honored, and this holiday is important because it shines a light on how they continue to serve every day and perform vital tasks, such as search and rescue operations, explosives detection, scout and patrol missions, and saving lives.

K-9 Veterans Day also honors support animals for people with mental health concerns and other service dogs that assist the disabled. Service dogs regularly put their health and lives in danger to carry out their tasks, so It’s only right and respectful that we acknowledge their accomplishments at least once a year.

military dog at the camp
Image Credit: 12019, Pixabay

How You Can Observe K-9 Veterans Day

There are a few ways you can observe K-9 Veterans Day:
  • Do a little research to learn more about their history, current service, and training. You will be amazed!
  • Share your knowledge and this day’s purpose on your social media platforms using #K9VeteransDay.
  • If any local ceremonies are being held to honor these incredible working dogs, be sure to join!
  • Some military and police dogs come from shelters and rescue centers, so if you have the means, consider making a donation or donating your time.
  • Consider adopting a retired military dog!

How You Can Care for a K-9 Veteran Dog 

K-9 working dogs have a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years and an average working life of 6 to 9 years. Sadly, these animals occasionally sustain injuries while doing their jobs and must be removed from service. When a K9 animal retires, their handlers often adopt them as pets, but in a few rare instances, citizens can also adopt the heroes.

If you feel inspired to adopt a K-9 veteran, here are some tips to consider so you are better prepared to bring a veteran home.

  • The dogs are trained to follow a regimen by the military and the police, and you should do the same with your disabled pet by creating a routine. Feed your pet at the same time each day, and set times for playtime and exercise.
  • Your new K–9 dog may be in a wheelchair, so you will need to consult your veterinarian about caring for a dog in a wheelchair and prepare your home to make it wheelchair accessible.
  • If your new pet has a missing limb, it is only natural that you will feel sympathetic. Your dog will experience stress if they sense your sadness and grief for them, so treat them the same way you treat any pet.
  • Your K-9 may suffer from PTSD, so you will need to be prepared. You will need to understand your dog’s triggers and try to avoid them.
  • Ensure you take your dog for a veterinary check at least twice a year and any time they seem unwell.
  • When working with a disabled animal, patience is vital. Your dog may act as though they can use their legs despite not understanding their handicap.
  • It can be difficult to care for a disabled or stressed animal, so it’s essential to ask for assistance from your veterinarian to maintain a positive attitude for the animal’s sake.
  • Always give your K-9 veteran extra love and attention, and remember to remain calm and patient.

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Final Thoughts

K-9 Veteran Day is an unofficial holiday that takes place on the 13th of March, which is the official birthday of the US Army K9 Corps. It is a day aimed at honoring and commemorating the sacrifices and achievements made by service dogs throughout history, as well as honoring our brave working dogs of today. Service dogs regularly put their lives and health at risk, and the least we can do is dedicate a day to them.

Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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