When a dog isn't a dog
A U.S. Army soldier and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a Chinook helicopter during water training over the Gulf of Mexico
January 6th, 2012
01:55 PM ET

When a dog isn't a dog

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

When an insurgent rocket attack badly injured Cpl. Dustin Lee while he was on patrol in Iraq, his shrapnel-impaled partner, Lex, picked himself up to lie over Lee - an effort to protect him.

"He knew Dustin was injured," said Lee's mom, Rachel. Lex was his bomb-sniffing dog.

Lee didn't survive his injuries, but Lex did - and became a part of the Lee family when Rachel adopted him.

"When Dustin was killed, one of the first things I asked about was Lex, because of their camaraderie. They depended on each other"

Lex, a German shepherd, served in the Marines as a military working dog.

There are about 2,700 dogs serving worldwide, according to the Defense Department. Roughly 600 of these dogs are deployed in designated war zones overseas, including Afghanistan, areas of Africa and Kuwait.

These "war dogs" are used on patrols, in drug and explosives detection, and on specialized missions, like the Navy SEAL raid that took down Osama bin Laden last year.

But while these dogs walk side by side with their troop handlers or go on jumps from helicopters in service members' arms, the Defense Department classifies military working dogs as "equipment," a term that advocates want changed.

"These dogs are more soldiers than they are equipment," said Debbie Kandoll, founder of Military Working Dog Adoptions.

Kandoll, who helps civilians adopt military working dogs, estimates that the average war dog saves 150 soldier lives during its service.

Dogs have been serving in military conflicts since World War I, returning home after the conflicts ended. But thousands of dogs were left behind during the Vietnam War. Of the roughly 4,900 dogs that the United States used in Vietnam, around 2,700 were turned over to the South Vietnamese army, and a staggering 1,600 were euthanized, according to veteran and former Marine dog handler Ron Aiello.

"Equipment you can leave behind," Kandoll said. "We've left tanks in Iraq. Everywhere we've been, we've left stuff. If you reclassify them as manpower, then you can't leave them."

Today, dogs are no longer left in war zones. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a law that allowed the dogs to be adopted by former handlers, law enforcement agencies and civilians. But Kandoll says this law didn't go far enough and is pushing for an amendment to include the reclassification of war dogs.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, agrees that a new classification is needed to elevate the "solider dog." Jones has been working on a bill that would reclassify the dogs as "K-9 members of the armed forces" and provide a way for the Defense Department to honor the dogs with official medals.

"Those who have been to war tell me that the dogs are invaluable," he said. "That they are just as much a part of a unit as a soldier or Marine. They are buddies."

Jones has submitted the proposed legislation to the Congressional Budget Office for a cost review. A response is expected by mid-February.

Despite the classification, the military says the dogs are respected.

"While there is a proper, legal classification for a working dog, we know they are living things, and we have great respect and admiration for them," said Lackland Air Force Base spokesman Gerry Proctor. The dogs are trained at Lackland. "A handler would never speak of their dog as a piece of equipment. The dog is their partner. You can walk away from a damaged tank, but not your dog. Never."

But if the dogs are retired on an overseas base, the military will not provide for their transportation back home, a practice that Kandoll says is like leaving them behind.

"The day the dog is retired, the dog is considered excess equipment and not entitled to any transport back," she said.

When a dog is retired on an overseas base and is adopted by someone in the United States, the adopter is charged the dog's shipping cost, which can be up to $2,000.

"It is essentially the same as a government surplus sale," Proctor said. "If the government has a surplus sale in Ramstein, Germany, and sells you a truck, then should the American taxpayer be on the hook to get that truck back to your house in Atlanta? The government doesn't own it once you buy it."

"That doesn't make sense to me," said Aiello, who thinks the military should wait to retire a dog until it's back in the United States. This way, it will be entitled to transportation benefits.

Kandoll says the cost to the taxpayer to send the dogs home would be minimal.

"We have half-empty military cargo transport planes transversing the globe daily. It would be more than feasible to place a retired military working dog on the transport plane back to the continental United States," Kandoll said. "Uncle Sam got them over there, and it's a point of honor for Uncle Sam to get his soldiers, whether they are four-legged or two-legged, back to the U.S."

But once home and placed with an adoptive family, medical bills are sure to stack up. Many of these retired dogs are more than 9 years old and are plagued with battlefield issues such as arthritis and even post-traumatic stress disorder. The Defense Department, Kandoll says, should allow military veterinarians to treat retired dogs.

A dog's medical history however is made clear during the adoption process, according to the Defense Department.

"So they go into it eyes wide open," Proctor said. "If you buy that truck, how far do you want the American taxpayer to be on the hook for the truck's oil changes and tuneups for its life?"

A one-month supply of all the medication the dog needs is also given to the adopter to ensure that the adoptive family has enough time to procure veterinary care for the animal, according to Proctor.

The brave dog Lex that stayed by his handler's side until the end is now 11 years old. He is doing well but has PTSD and pieces of shrapnel that cause spinal complications, Rachel Lee said.

"To be able to reclassify them would be to also get them help in a better manner," Lee said. "To be able to have them looked at differently - as a vet, as a soldier and to give them benefits."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq • Middle East • Military
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    It is a shame that these well trained honourable dogs can't be treated much better. Humans were meant to have dominion over the animals but NOT to abuse or dishonour that which was also created by God. Like it was said, why can't these dogs be retired after return to the US and their health regained and then let them be adopted, Dogs certainly exhibit devotion to their owner that isn't always seen in humans, sad to say about humans. Would the military please take care of their warriors, two-legged and four-legged.

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    Even Francis the Mule (anyone remember him?) had soldier status. These canines are heros and deserving of a comfortable and safe retirement.

    January 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
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      Until we stop thinking of dogs or any animal as a possession to be tossed away, man will never truly understand what it is to be human. If dogs didn't feel, then they wouldn't cry out. If dogs didn't care, then my dog wouldn't get between me and even a family member messing with me if he didnt' love me. Stupid comments by some. Intelligent and caring by others. My dad would have said the same thing. A soldier is a soldier and respect is deserved. They give their lives for us, the least we can do is give them theirs back.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Reply
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    January 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • I agree

      Thank you for your comments. You almost made me cry.

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      http://www.herodogawards.org/vote/?nominee=81435589

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  52. Tha Chikin

    This is makes me REALLY angry!

    The military to dog: "Thanks for your service, you saved hundreds of lives! Now here is a little something for you to go to sleep permanently."

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    January 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Reply
  53. Jess

    These dogs are heroes not equipment. They are living, breathing caring beings that deserve respect. The soldiers love these animals and these animals love their soldiers.
    I would rather my tax dollars go to the dogs being brought back to the US to live out their days and get medical treatment, than all of Congress to ever get a paycheck.

    January 8, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Reply
    • Tha Chikin

      AMEN!

      January 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Reply
    • Michael Stewart

      You hit that one over center field fence...in absolute agreement with you. Dogs do something for us. Congresscritters only suck the life out of the body politic.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
  54. ma & pa

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  56. fukdamidleast

    Our soldiers formed strong bonds with these dogs I'm sure, being away from family and all, these dogs are made to find explosives in hostile territory , and trained in english, they wouldn't understand the jibberish coming from the rag heads anyway, which would probably beat them for not listening, how can label a living animal as equipment?? Our goverment is ass backwards, they should be aloud a trip home anyway just for being made to go to those shyt hole countries to begin with, if we leave em there the terrorist are going to put bombs on them and walk them into traffic...

    January 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  57. Kate

    Great story. I was rather disappointed to see it removed from the front page of cnn.com so quickly to be replaced by some relationship article and then I couldn't find it again. Nonetheless, as a military brat and daughter of a retired Caption I was appalled to learn that this is how military dogs are treated. It is inconceivable to imagine how many hero dogs have been 'left behind' or euthanized. I hope we can all pull together and create change for our K 9 soldiers.

    January 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  58. FrankJ

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    http://www.army.lk/detailed.php?NewsId=3348

    January 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Reply
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  59. RandyThayer

    The Police treat dogs differently than the military. One thing they do that makes sense is the dogs ARE viewed as active police NOT equipment. And the dogs are given a higher rank than their handler so that any abuse constitutes iinsubordination to a superior officer. The military should make note of this.

    January 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
    • Jeanie

      Randy,
      In the military MWDs do have a higher rank than their handler, for the same reason.

      January 7, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Reply
    • Isabel

      I agree. Police dogs enter buildings to ensure the safety of their partner. I believe, from what I have seen, that any officer that has a dog considers him to be as valuable as any human being could be.
      It saddens me to think how many animals were left behind in the past...May the buck stop here so to speak...not only should no child be left behind....no animal serving our country should either.

      January 9, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  60. Redeye Dog

    This is one of those "no brainers" which the military machine has been slow to adopting.

    It's time. These dogs have proved themselves as disciplined patriots.

    January 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  61. Galo Hernandez

    Poor God's animals, victims of man frustration

    January 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Reply
    • sonny

      i agree.

      January 9, 2012 at 12:35 am | Reply
  62. flopflipper

    I respect the desire to reclassify them and honor them as soldiers, but I think we should draw the line at automatically providing the same life-time benefits that other soldiers receive such as life-time medical care, housing, and travel. I hope the military can find serious pet owners to adopt these dogs and take good care of them for the rest of their lives, but I don't see any need for the tax payer to guarantee life-time benefits.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
    • Rightster

      Do they allow gay dogs in the military?

      January 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Reply
    • Equalist

      Why shouldn't they be entitled to lifetime benefits? These dogs save lives, serve our country, and go into combat zones over and over again, often saving more lives and being redeployed more times than our human soldiers. They deserve the respect and honor that their deeds warrant.

      January 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
      • flopflipper

        I get the feeling that 5 dog years of benefits would cost about the same as 35 human years.

        Look, we already give our human soldiers fairly amazing benefits after they make sacrifices for this country. And they deserve it. However, its also very, very expensive. On the order of 300 billion dollars a year expensive in 2012.

        I think its reasonable that tax payers extend such amazingly generous benefits to our soldiers, but I think a qualified, caring human owner can take care of their dog. And I hope they will extend them the respect their past service allows.

        January 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
      • Jeanie

        Equalist,
        The medical coverage will be through donations made to 501(c)(3) organizations.

        January 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
      • R Vargus

        to all, I serve as the Canine program manager for US Central Command and have the honor to manage and direct all canine operations. these canine warriors are the best, they have no rank, but are considered while "in uniform" equal as soldiers. The DOD considers them equipment, but they are treated as troops, especially in the alignment of medical evacuation, there have been multiple calls for an injured MWD to be evacuated and the medevac crews scrambled as quickly for our canine warriors as they have done for wounded soldiers. I have had the honor in Afghanistan to see a fallen soldier ceremony, where a canine in a flag drapped military coffin was processed on the flightline at Bagram Air Base, with close to 2500 personnel lined up on the tarmac to pay final respects to a fallen comrade. As for the benefits once the dogs is deemed no longer able to work, the canine is returned to Lackland AFB, given a final disposition physical, if the haldner or civilian wishes to adopt the dog they execute a hold harmless certificate releasing the US Government from any responsibility or liability, the benefit that is attained is the canine hero is adopted and allowed to live out its remaining life in a home filled with love.

        January 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Brian

      The "life-time" of a 9 year old dog is less than 5 years. If the veterinary care is from a salaried military veterinarian the cost is minimal.

      January 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
      • jeanie

        Brian,
        The cost to taxpayers will be $0.00 for the lifetime, no matter how many years, of the retired MWD. It is not funded by taxpayer money. It is funded through donations to 501(c)(3) organizations. Please go to the Facebook page 'Help Get Military Working Dogs Medical Benefits' and you can read the lastest draft of the bill there.

        January 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
      • Ceyda

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        April 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Clinton M.

      I tired of "taxpayer" whine about paying for this and that. Those dogs give their lives to protect your sorry taxpaying ass. It is time for some people to know that there are more important things than money. Besides what is your share? About two bucks?

      January 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Reply
      • Kathie

        Well said.. God Bless you!

        January 7, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
      • Dog La Ver

        Have some empathy man! I can buy an ice cream for those two bucks! How can you not care about the tears in my eyes as I am denied that ice-cream? What kind of a cold-hearted person are you anyway? :-|

        January 8, 2012 at 3:18 am |
      • yo mom

        nothing is more important the money your nothing with out it think about it how all this goes on you fool

        January 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
      • I agree

        AMEN!! Thank you.

        January 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Jeanie

      flopflipper, Congressman Jones' bill won't be giving retired MWDs the same benefits that humans receive. Please go on Facebook to 'Help Get Military Working Dogs Medical Benefits' and read the draft of the bill. There is also a sister page, 'Retired Military Working Dog Assistance Organization.'

      January 7, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Reply
      • Redeye Dog

        You are confusing "politicians" with "military." Military, contrary to popular beliefs, DO NOT get free "lifetime medical care, housing and travel." While on active duty, families are provided with housing and free medical care, not free travel unless you are considering Space A travel on Military Airlift Aircraft. LOL!!

        After service, all of that is severed except for the Space A travel and a longer wait for a "potential" seat. Military and families do have the option to participate and PAY for a pretty decent healthcare package. Not free. They also can participate and PAY for a pretty good life insurance. NOT free. They are given a voucher which "almost" guarantees them a housing loan which they have to PAY BACK. And then there is the Veteran's Administration which is NOT a benefit of the military. Surprise!! Enrollment is on a "case by case" basis for health care and LIMITED. NOT FREE except to those who need help the most. They pay for 100% of their travel otherwise. So if you were referring to Politicians as military, you would have been 100% correct! Otherwise, you are about 100% wrong!

        Please educate yourself before you make blanket statements about our service members.

        January 8, 2012 at 3:00 am |
  63. Dog La Ver

    I support the suggested changes for reclassification of dogs, but dogs getting medals seems silly. The dogs themselves surely don't care, so the medals would just be to make the dog's owners proud of their dogs. Let's not get silly here and try to make dogs into humans. They are dogs, not humans, however brave, great, and important they may be.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • Clinton M.

      If they are not Human then why should they be in a silly Human's fight?

      January 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Reply
  64. DFAT

    BZ talks about priorities. If he wants the kids to be fed in Somalia maybe he should get rid of his internet and donate the money to feed the Somalian children instead. That shows where his priorities are.

    January 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Reply
    • Onda

      Too much space on BZ and other like minded. The links are great, and one more, perhaps showing support for rep. Walter Jones efforts, http://jones.house.gov. If anyone has a similar site, would appreciate it being listed..

      January 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Reply
      • Jeanie

        Onda,

        If you go to the Facebook pages 'Help Get Military Working Dogs Medical Benefits' and its sister page "Military Working Dog Assistance Organization" you'll find links to an online petition at change.org and a sample letter to submitt to your US Senators and Congressman.

        January 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  65. Hadclass2006

    I just want to say that the guy who said he's happy that the dog lived and the Marine died is an asshole and I hope he gets the "poetic justice" that's coming to him.

    January 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
    • Julie

      I second that. If you can't stand behind us, we welcome you to stand in front of us.

      January 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Reply
    • Cadiz

      I support that as well. I am glad the dog lived and wish the Marine had as well. Both are better beings than the person who made that comment.

      January 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  66. Newmoon2

    If you read the comments on this thread left by the people who are IN the military, who work with these dogs, this is a non-issue! Dogs are not being left in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are brought home and kept or adopted out (if possible). Speaking from personal experience, many of these dogs would be inappropriate as pets. They react quickly to situations they perceive as threatening and without proper handling can be VERY dangerous animals. They are NOT pets.

    January 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • Julie

      The same could be said about some of my brothers who come home with PTSD. I guess we should just euthanize anything that has seen the horrors of war. The MWD adoption program is also run out of Lackland and possibly other military installations. It is a process. We don't just take a vicious dog and toss it back into society. I'm pretty sure I've seen some poorly socialized chihuahuas that are more "dangerous" than any MWD I have encountered.

      January 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Reply
      • Jeanie

        Julie,
        They also use dogs they don't retire to train new handlers.

        January 7, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • erin demler

      unfortunately, too many "military" dogs are euthanased at age 6 or 7

      January 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  67. Steve

    Some dogs like the German Shepard are totally devoted to their family, i.e. handler. I have read that they would give their lives gladly in defense of their "family". These dogs are not "equipment" any more than the lowest private straight outta boot is. When retired these dogs should be well taken care of in the U.S. and live a happy comfortable life until old age.

    That's one thing I have no problem for my tax money to be spent on.

    January 7, 2012 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • BZ

      How about use that money to buy a meal for a kid in Somalia.... Its priorities – Il start thinking of Dogs when every human is fed.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply
      • yang

        wonderful... so how many children are you feeding?

        January 7, 2012 at 11:32 am |
      • Zombietech

        Will never happen – Might as well start wishingfo rmonkeys to fly out your butt

        January 7, 2012 at 11:35 am |
      • Traveller

        Me I'm just happy to hear that the dog made it in one piece whereas the oppressing tool of the United States tyranny didn't.
        Poetic justice is what I call that.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:50 am |
      • Julie

        The humanitarian mission has been ongoing in Somalia since the early 90s. As someone who has recently come home from the Eastern Horn of Africa, your argument is invalid. Uncle Sam has been shelling out support for that country in multiple ways for quite some time. And I second the question, how many children are you feeding?? Do a little research before you pick a random third world country next time.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:51 am |
      • Cadiz

        Many Somalis kill or hold for ransom people who try to help them and then use the ransom money for terrorism. I can't think of a more idiotic example of a place where the USA should send their money to help people.

        January 7, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
      • Bearpartner

        BJ...did someone stomp on your puppy when your were a kid??? What you suggest is that we carve up the dogs, roast them with a nice sauce and send them over to Somalia to feed the kids there??? What the H... does Somalia have to do with the question of how best to treat these faithful dogs. The dogs are taken by the government (no volunteers) to hostile environments. They perform loyally and deserve respect for the work they do. I don't think they need a lifetime pension, but it would be respectful if the government that took them into action, also spent a bit of time assuming responsibility for their repatriation home with a caring family.

        January 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
      • kels

        We have a responsibility to the dogs we train and put in harms way. We don't have the same level of responsibility to some person in a third world country. The somalies are ultimately responsible for themselves. I can empathasize if they are unable to take care of themselves, but I am not responsible. I can help because I choose too, because I can, because I should. But not because I have a responsibility. My responsibility to the Military Working Dog is much much greater.

        January 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Rayan

      oh thank goodness... someone is working to ensure that dogs get medals. That's really important.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:51 am | Reply
      • haha

        Haha

        January 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Jeanie

      Steve,
      No tax payer money is being used to fund medical care, as indicated in Congressman Jones' bill. It if funded through donations to 501(c)(3) organizations. Please check out 2 pages on Facebook, set up by the woman who supplied the language for Congressman Jones' bill, "Help 'Get Military Working Dogs Medical Benefits" and "Military Working Dog Assistance Organization"

      January 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  68. Linda

    How hard it is... you don't leave people behind then why the dogs? They do not take up much room on the plane.. The law needs to change. All laws in regards to animal cruelty do! If you don't think so then you are a cold selfish narcissistic being. There is sick things happening to animals and if there was punishment then people would think twice. This really isn't a hard concept for people with common sense and ones with any brain function. Wake up!!!!

    January 7, 2012 at 11:13 am | Reply
    • BZ

      Its about priorities – what is more important. Getting a human home or a dog? Don't tell me its the same.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:19 am | Reply
      • Zombietech

        The resources to do both are already available. Like the man stated in the article there are cargo planes flying all the time with excess space available. The "him or me" agrument is rediculous

        January 7, 2012 at 11:37 am |
      • Zombietech

        The resources to do both are already available. Like the man stated in the article there are cargo planes flying all the time with excess space available. The "him or me" argument is rediculous

        January 7, 2012 at 11:38 am |
      • Traveller

        BZ,
        Put this way if I had to choose between you & the dog or even a mouse, I'd choose the dog or the mouse over you any day of the week & twice on Sunday.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:56 am |
      • Julie

        lol at Traveller. ;) I can agree. We have more than enough space on our transports coming in and out of theater. There is never an excuse to leave a MWD behind. Those dogs not only save countless lives but they significantly improve morale in theater. Nothing quite makes a deployed members day as the day they get the opportunity to interact with a morale dog or a MWD. I challenge some of you to spend a little time down range before jumping to conclusions you know nothing about. We regularly get in trouble for interacting with host nation animals because all of us appreciate the unconditional love of an animal, especially when you are deployed to a combat zone.

        January 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
      • dana baines

        this is not a story about choosing a human over a dog.

        January 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
      • PLN

        Are we leaving humans behind? No. Your comment has no validity. Besides being a source of security in war zones, war dogs are companions, best friends and comfort to our soldiers. Anything that will streamline the process of getting these babies back to the US to their handlers or adoptive families is necessary.

        A man's soul can be judged by the way he treats his dog ~ Charles Doran

        January 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • erin demler

      we need to raise awareness!

      January 7, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Reply
      • emi

        aww, look at the cute lltite old girly dog with her old lady beard!! Poor lltite Fable. We'll have to find an old pic of Trouser and see if we can decide whose tongue is the longest Trouser's or Figbert's. Of course, Figgy would win the Thanksgiving Cleanup Award over Trouser but who would win between him and Fable? The stuff of deep philosophical discussions. . .

        April 4, 2012 at 8:19 am |
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        April 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Jeanie

      Linda,
      MWDs are no longer left behind, that was during Vietnam.

      January 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply
  69. Dee

    Military dogs are not given a choice whether to serve, nor did they volunteer. The military takes them to use overseas in war situations, where the dogs are forced to endure danger and extreme stress. The least the U.S. can do is to bring the dogs back home and give them a chance to be adopted and have a real home.

    January 7, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
    • BZ

      If dogs are given freedom it will make thousands of babies and they roam around on our streets. Yo want to give a dog the freedom to chose? haha u are all idiots.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:18 am | Reply
      • Traveller

        F. ey BZ,
        You have the heart of a Zionist f. pig.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:58 am |
      • Cadiz

        BZ, try not to be so much of an idiot. I understand that it is very hard for you and we should be kind to people with your type of disabilities.

        January 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
      • francey

        are you for real, you piece of dog s t? get a life.

        January 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  70. Ernesto Gallo's Pole

    @ CHRIS and @ BZ:

    Both of you should be euthanized, in country, together and as soon as possible.

    January 7, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
    • erin demler

      lmao agreed. talk about children you two should be neutered

      January 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  71. BZ

    You can never give a DOG the same status as humans. I don't care what you call it – but its not human because it cannot differentiate between right and wrong. It only does what its trained or on instincts. A dog trained by a criminal will steal, does that make that dog a thief? of course not.. then a military dog should never be called a hero. Because that undermines the choice that was taken by our military to serve us.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:57 am | Reply
    • Nickel

      "we can judge the heart of a man by the way he treats his animals" – immanual kent. "the greatness of a nation And it's moral progress can be judged by the way Its animals are treated" – Ghandi. If more humans were more like dogs, we would have no wars. I'd pull a stray dog out of a fire before say the likes of a guy who could set an old lady on fire in an elevator. Dogs have a heartbeat, they are not equipment.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • Julie

      BZ, then please, I beg you, go downrange and sniff out the IEDs for us. Let those dogs stay home if you are so prone to believe they don't have the right to come back. The way dogs are treated over there is reprehensible. They are killed brutally for sport. A few friends had to save the lone surviving puppy of its litter from some Afghani military members who were jumping on their skulls for sport. We would be barbarians to allow our MWDs to risk their lives to save ours only to leave them behind in an area of the world that does not understand the value of a life and routinely slaughters them in the most inhumane ways just to get a laugh. But if you would like to go fill the job, we will let you. I promise we will try to find room in the rotator to bring you home.

      January 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • MRK

      BZ
      my question is just how small are you inside? you are insisting that we should not treat an animal 'rightly' because they are less than we are???? How worried are you that you are less valuable than a dog=how small are you inside. All life should be treated with respect and doing so elevates us as humans. How can you take the stance that behaving in a civilized and kind manner is diminishing us in any way. Get help with your esteem issues it is just wrong to stand on the corner and scream that you are a better person than a dog is. ....................... it's attitudes like yours that make me love the dogs more than humanity in general (some individuals I like, but humanity in general, not so much.... dogs have more nobility)

      January 7, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Reply
  72. Patty RK

    Equipment, are you kidding me?? They are alive and aware and have feelings, which some people in the military authority do not apparently have.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
    • Rightster

      What about the pigs and cows we eat, that have "feelings"?

      January 7, 2012 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • texasgoat

      Think we should change the term advocate to"tool".

      January 7, 2012 at 10:58 am | Reply
    • BZ

      Feelings?... its called instincts not feelings... man is the only animal with feelings and compassion, and if he loses that he is no worse than a wild animal.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:59 am | Reply
      • Dee

        Dogs feel love and pain ... ergo they have feelings.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
      • cartec

        I hope you don't have any animals as pets. How can you make such a generalized statement? When was the last time you heard of a dog killing other dogs systematically or just for the fun of it? When was the last time you heard of a dog tying up another helpless animal and torturing it to death? When was the last time you heard of a dog taking from another animal just because he was greedy and without empathy? Animals have feelings and they have compassion. The article above proves that. That dog could have found safety for himself and left his master unprotected but he didn't. There was no restitution for him for what he did. He did it because he had compassion for his master.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:33 am |
      • VintageVal

        How narrow and closed minded can one person be? More and more science is confirming that the animal world has much more going on than we ever dreamed of.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |
      • cocopuf

        You're dead wrong. Man is NOT an animal.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:43 am |
      • lori

        Moron with no feelings and little instinct. What does that make you? Less than the beast is a man who is of no value. Useless man.

        January 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
      • Erica

        Your a complete idiot who has 1) never had a real pet that depends on you for its existence and received the love and happiness they feel for their humans and 2) served in the military and have a god damn clue to what this article is about!

        January 8, 2012 at 2:16 am |
  73. Rightster

    How about a war cemetery for messenger pigeons that weathered enemy flak and gunfire during earlier wars? Put it right next to Arlington. On the dogs, make it a condition of enlistment that the handler is responsible for the dog and when the dog is retired, the various handlers draw lots to see which one gets their dog.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
  74. Mr No It All

    A dog is a livestock animal, no different than mules used in the past to pack ammo & supplies.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
    • RS

      Did you even read the article? You sound like a moron.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
      • Dee

        @RS – I agree he sounds like a moron.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • lori

      Cows save lives?

      January 7, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  75. Hinton

    United States War Dogs Association ( uswardogs.org ) has plenty of information on this. Too bad the article didn't mention this. The idea about placing them at VA hospitals is a good one. It would also be nice to see the dogs placed with some of the vets, particularly those with disabling injuries and in this case at government expense.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:34 am | Reply
  76. StefGW

    I'm an animal lover, but never a "crazy advocate"... however...

    In the case of military dogs, the animal should be cared for until a home is found. The fact that the dogs suffer after war shows the humanity within them. A truck will never quiver at the sound of a firework from stress in the war zone. Even if the animal is not provided care post-war- it should be given care until adopted in the states.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
  77. Rightster

    Why does "brave" apply to all things military in the United States?

    January 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
    • moods12

      Brave applied to all military things for each country's military. You seem to have some personal issues. Chill out.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
    • gallowglass

      Rightster: Go enlist and find out. As to the dogs, if the current resident of 1600 Pennsy Ave. can fly his mutt around the world at taxpayer's expense the service dogs damned sure have earned the right to be brought home before retired and given a loving home for the remainder of their days.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
    • Cadiz

      Because the military people are willing to risk their lives to defend the freedoms of others. That sounds like 'bravery' in my book. An animal that is willing to risk its own life for its handler is also 'brave' in my book.

      January 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  78. Linda

    Things are not "retired" or "adopted" only beings are "retired or "adopted". They already call working dogs "partners" in a team. They definately need to change the classification to reflect these practises.It's only right.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
  79. BeenThereDoneThat

    Civilian readers: be aware that this is not a news article. It is just an animal story. Notice that there are no actual figures or numbers of dogs left behind overseas. Do you know why there are no numbers in this article? Because very very few, if any, dogs get left behind. Their handlers and units take care of them and bring them back. Soldiers in the sandbox love their animals so much that they often bring back local mutts they have befriended there as well. Afghan kids offer to sell you puppies because they know Americans have a soft spot for dogs. The 341st Military Working Dog unit in Texas handles adoptions for retired dogs. If you don't believe me, contact them and find out how many dogs don't have a waiting list of homes that are willing to adopt them. So what I read here is a young blog-o-journalist in search of a story that will get some readership. But it's not a real story.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • andy

      Ya i kinda figured having been there myself i never saw any animals left behind. The handlers i know would of risked thier own lives for their dogs, the bond of friendship was so intense.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
    • Dave

      Not questioning how the military handles dogs... I just the think the term 'equipment' is so inaccurate as to border on comical. A change in classification should make it EASIER for the military to treat dogs in the way the military would like (and usually do) treat dogs anyway.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
    • Cadiz

      Completely agree. I don't see a reason to come up with another classification.

      January 7, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  80. Rob Lebo

    Just think how much military infrastructure there is to train these War Dogs....It would be an eye opener for sure.
    These dogs save those who serve in the war zones...... and is their military purpose.
    Surely a $2K cost to get back home to the USA when their sevice is no longer needed is justified,,,,,,for the chance of of living the rest of their lives with an adoptive family...... is the very least the military can do.
    As a taxpayer, I would support this any day of the week.
    To me, these dogs should be honored and respected for their service, as we honor those who serve our country.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
  81. Dave

    I don't know or care what new classification they get, but 'equipment' is no where near accurate. Not just my opinion, ask any military or police that work with dogs in this kind of capacity. I am sure the term 'equipment' rubs them wrong more than me even. I respect military tradition in treating these animals, but they shouldn't have to be exploiting loopholes and relying on tradition alone.

    Humans domesticated the dog somewhere between 14,000 and 50,000 years ago. The first domesticated animal. They have spread through EVERY human culture, dogs are one of the true universals to the entire human species. They will die protecting the humans they bond with, without hesitation. And they are actually USEFUL, dogs literally helped us get bin Laden. How many human lives have avalanche dogs, search and rescue dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, etc. saved? Not to be callous to vegetarians, but chickens merely taste good. We can debate whether it's right or wrong to eat chicken some other time, but I think we'd have to agree dogs and humans have a fundamentally different relationship.

    Add all that up, and we gotta owe them something right? Change the classification, 'equipment' is simply the wrong term. I for one sincerely don't care if my tax dollars go to bringing some canines back from war theaters. I would rather leave behind 'equipment' than a dog. And I don't think the military disagree with me. Take the bin Laden raid, we blew up the crashed supersecret stealth helicopter, but I am pretty certain those dogs got a ride home.

    That helicopter was 'equipment', the dogs were not.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:27 am | Reply
  82. DD

    The dogs left in Vietnam were also eaten.
    I always thought the dogs were classed as support troops. Yes it should be changed.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:25 am | Reply
  83. Chris D

    I am a current Canine Handler for the Army and have been for 11 years now. Anyone interested in adopting should go to Lackland AFB webstie: http://www.lackland.af.mil/ right side near the bottom click on the Shepards head. Tons of info on adopting dogs and what is available. Lackland decertifies about 20 dogs a month who don't pass the test to be a MWD. Great dogs that are free to the public and are all deemed none agressive and suitable for families.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
    • Dave

      Thanks for posting that link Chris D, I hope everyone of those dogs finds a good home.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:31 am | Reply
  84. Janet Klecz

    My husband a Vietnam Veteran says: " The dogs that were left behind for the South Vietnamese Army, were eaten." May God forgive us.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
    • BZ

      A dog is no different from a Chicken.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
      • Dee

        @BZ - you are an idiot.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:08 am |
      • DB

        You are no different then a chicken.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • mikeBigD

      Not true.

      – From another viet vet.

      January 7, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  85. mikrik13

    A friend of mine worked dogs in Viet Nam. Before leaving he was ordered to kill his dog. He cries about it to this day.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:16 am | Reply
  86. Scott

    The dogs should be treated with respect because of their service. Much like horses back when we still had calvary... though I don't think they were treated very well either, but not because them men who rode into battle with them didn't want them to be treated like soldiers. They serve this country and should be treated accordingly. They shouldn't be left behind, they shouldn't be treated like "equipment".

    January 7, 2012 at 10:10 am | Reply
  87. Debby Kay

    Thanks for posting this information, taxpayers need to be made aware of such situations. Bravo to the dogs too, thanks for helping to keep freedom alive.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:10 am | Reply
  88. Night Fury

    The dog pictured is a Belgian Malinois, also know as a Belgian Shepherd Dog or Mechelaar. United States Navy SEALs used a Belgian Malinois war dog named Cairo in Operation Neptune Spear, in which Osama bin Laden was killed. Dogs like Cairo deserve hero soldier status.

    January 7, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply
  89. Jason

    Typical government non-sense. A police dog is an officer and treated with the respect of a person but our military dogs are equipment? Whatever is convienent at the time. This is why we occupy. To get our message across that we are not numb and dumb to the acts that are happening around us by our local and national governament. What a joke!!

    January 7, 2012 at 10:08 am | Reply
    • Oli

      On paper. That's the only place where they're "equipment."

      From the article: "A handler would never speak of their dog as a piece of equipment. The dog is their partner. You can walk away from a damaged tank, but not your dog. Never."

      Seriously, stow the "this is why we occupy" stuff and read the article.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
    • BZ

      A dog is does what you ask it to do.. if its trained by a criminal it steals? does that make the dog a thief? If not then you cant a military dog as brave or give it the same status as humans.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:52 am | Reply
      • Cynthia

        BZ, you have obviously never raised a dog. If you did and did not receive their loyaly, it's because you are blind or, IMO hardened to it. Honestly, have you even loved a human?? If you have, you have seen what love looks like. Dogs love. People who dismiss any creature's intelligence and worthiness fall easily into the abuse of said beings. Animals, which we are, too, deserve our humble respect. They have suffered at the hands of people like you.
        How lonely and empty this world would be without them.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  90. debs

    These dogs could still be a valuable resource for troop rehab at VA hospitals and with those who also suffer from PTSD. They most definitely are soldiers and deserve all the benefits that go with service to our country. Leave the used metal behind but never treat our troops or their dogs without the respect they deserve.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • JC

      That is a great point...HOWEVER, after these "war dogs" Serve on a few mentions with our soldiers....i just can't imagine that any solider would leave them behind...i bet they all chip in to bring them back home(US)....I would be curious to see the percentage of dogs that are actually left....i just can't see them staring out of window at the dogs as they take off to USA..maybe im being naive. :)

      January 7, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
  91. Mike

    I think it's awesome that these amazing service members are going to gain this status. I am interested in where the information comes from. I'm not saying it's untrue, but it presents an image that is far different from what I saw in Afghanistan. I am an Army medevac (dustoff) pilot, and on many occasions we flew missions to rescue and transport wounded working dogs to treatment. These dogs always were given a rank one level above their handler (If the handler is a Sergeant the dog is a Staff Sergeant), and the handler can be charged with assaulting a superior if they harm the animal. I know that many things that we do in the Army are tradition and not actual regulation, I'm just wondering where tradition ends and regulation begins.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:34 am | Reply
  92. airnation

    American attitude throw away after use.
    They are k9 soldiers just like the others. Pay them respect until they die or send them to me. I will take care of them; After all they have been thru, how can one even think of doing so. No wonder you go around the world to look for a war instead of staying on your turf. You don't know what love is or the price of life for the matter of fact. Send them to your soldiers who lost their brain or a limb and have a hard time recovering from your stupid war they need all the love and affection they can get as much as your K9 officers. Show them the appreciation they deserve to be loyal and be to your side at all time. What a shame to hear that. Excellent storie.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:30 am | Reply
    • Log

      Very true, Americans are a "throw away" nation...i saw that first hand in the rows of graves at Normandy. Why did we leave our guys there. Heck, why did we even go there?

      January 7, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
    • Log

      airheadnation, I love you all over the world. Americans are bad bad bad people. I wish they would withdrawl all their troops from all over the world so we could all live in peace.I sure hope to see live broadcasts of the head cuttings in the middle east, adn hope they are broadcast live so we can bet on them in Las Vegas and have commercials for the Kardashians.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:21 am | Reply
  93. Morningstar

    These brave dogs who have saved countless lives are considered "equipment" while greedy corporations who have shipped countless jobs to low wage countries have been given the legal status of "personhood".

    January 7, 2012 at 9:22 am | Reply
    • Log

      read "Mike" above...dope.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
      • Cynthia

        Log, you are long past your due date. Do not pass GO. Your comment is one of sour grapes and mindless goose-stepping. This person's insight is right on. You have nothing to offer but brain-farts.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  94. Dave

    For those who still claim cats are smarter than dogs – ever try to train a cat to do anything ? Dogs are far superior in intelligence.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • Joe

      Dave, obedience is the word your looking for. being a push over and doing what your told does not show intelligence.

      January 7, 2012 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • Night Fury

      Cats are too smart to be ordered around by their humans.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:05 am | Reply
    • Fast Eddie

      Seriously?! Dogs are cringing and subservient to their human masters. If being submissive and easily led were traits of intelligence, history would have remembered kept slaves as geniuses and the ones that ran away and threw off their shackles would've been thought of as stupid.

      No cat would allow itself to be a Bullet Catcher.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:12 am | Reply
      • Steve

        Sure, cats do not wish to follow orders but expect to be fed and provided shelter. They must be liberals,

        Honestly a stupid cross section of comments on cats vs. dogs but I couldn't resist. Yes stupid as well but ...

        January 7, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  95. Sixztmom

    My family has discovered this problem first hand. My Dad just came back today from Afghanistan and brought back a retired bomb sniffing dog that was in danger of being put down. Please write yiour congress member about this issue. It is a crime that these dogs put their lives on the line and yet can be discarded when they are no longer of services.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • Steve

      My thanks to your Dad and your dog for their brave service!

      January 7, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
    • adam rivera

      i agree fully. i am currently deployed in afghanistan as a T.E.D.D (Tactical Explosive Detection Dog) handler and i know oh to well how these guys are more than just "equipment". They are our friends. Our battle buddies to the end. Its easy for somebody who doesnt work around MWDs to say that they are equipment but for the ppl who work along side them on a daily basis and whose lives have been saved because of the hard work that our dogs put out, its a totally different oppinion.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
  96. ROCKWOOD

    Great article. I really don't think American tax payers are going to throw a fit about money being spent on these dogs, however, with that being said, I think more money needs to be spent on psychological services for the soldier members who come back home, if they need it.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:07 am | Reply
    • ROCKWOOD

      And why in the h*ll when I'm using the U.S. edition of CNN is the POST button in Spanish?

      January 7, 2012 at 9:08 am | Reply
  97. jrh

    That the DoD considers a living, sentient being "equipment" tells me all I need to know about where America is heading. Not sure why this is a surprise though. The government, and particularly the GOP has always considered humans as objects, not real people. Treating living beings as objects means you don't have to have any compassion for them, and you can trample them under your feet without the least pang of guilt.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:03 am | Reply
    • Terry Saulsbury

      Found your remarks about GOP extremely strange. You do realize that it is Dims who favor euthanizing and abortion of human beings, don't you? Perhaps you should crawl out of your cocoon more often.

      January 7, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
  98. Matt C.

    This isn't about making dogs human. This is about ensuring adequate care for an animal that is more than equipment. My rifle never jumped on me to protect me from shrapnel. A ride home and some medical care from an DOD Veterinary is a far cry from brainwashed BS. Anyone who has ever worked with these animals knows that they are more than equipment, and it is vitally neccassary for moral and ethical reasons to care for them to some extent. This issue is not about elevating dogs to the level of humans, but about respecting a creature that we utilize as something more than equipment.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:01 am | Reply
    • johnm

      Well put Matt....(rifle analogy) let's pressure our congressional leaders on this. This is a no brainer – someone need not serve to understand that a service animal should at minimum be brought home on the governments dime.

      January 7, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • Jeanie

      Yahooo, Matt C. = someone who understands the bill!
      The bill does not try to equate our MWDs with humans. It does not use tax payer money. Money for medical care after retirement will come from donations made to 501(c)(3) organizations. Transportation will come from donated frequent flyer miles, similar to how now you can donate miles to injured members of the military and their families.

      January 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  99. Chris

    Military dogs are an asset but they are not soldiers. They do not get paid, earn towards retirement, etc... An asset should not be wasted be it dog or helicopter but to make it a law that "no dog gets left behind" is overreaching and unnecessary. When the Vietnam ended and those dogs were euthanized in country if they would have been brought to the states they would have been euthanized here anyways. Why, because just like their human counterparts troop levels were being downsized.

    January 7, 2012 at 8:55 am | Reply
    • jrh

      So you're saying troop reductions should be accomplished with euthanasia? That's sure what it sounds like to me.

      January 7, 2012 at 9:05 am | Reply
    • Karen

      They have feelings just like you. If you do not think they are important enough, then I for one would not want somone like you protecting my freedom. The world needs to be rid of self absorbed attitudes like yours. When men like you stop thinking you are so superior to other life forms, the world will be a better place! I hope you are not in the military!

      January 7, 2012 at 9:08 am | Reply
      • terry

        Now, Karen, let's get a bit reasonable here. A dog is NOT a human. Might love him/her, but it is NOT a human.

        January 7, 2012 at 9:45 am |
      • Jeffrey

        Dogs are not human they do not have feelings they are here to serve us get over it all you guys care about is feeling goodabout this it's ridiculous there are dogs that are trained to protect and serve us there is no reason to pay to bring these dogs back escpicially if they are injured I'd say the government is bending over backwards by just offering to send them back if you pay the fee apparently no one who comments on these CNN posts anymore lives in reality life sucks war sucks but the government who's trillion dollar deficits are inflating our dollar around the world takes a backseat to a dumb story like this

        January 7, 2012 at 9:52 am |
      • Me

        I am sure the chicken you had for dinner the other night had feelings as well

        January 7, 2012 at 9:58 am |
      • pmc123

        "dogs are not human, do not have feelings"

        About the dumbest statement I have heard anywhere. You've obviously never owned a dog or you would know otherwise. Dogs not only have feelings but they also can detect what mood their owner is in when he/her is sad or tired and when its time to play.

        When I arrive at my parents house after being away two or three weeks...the two dogs there immediately recognize me and how happy I am to see them and become extremely happy themselves. If you've ever watched video of wolves in the wild and how they interact with their cubs you'd realize just how ignorant you are.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
      • VintageVal

        "Jeffery" apparently dogs have more feelings than you do.

        January 7, 2012 at 11:46 am |
      • gary

        Karen ,I'm with you;dogs are way more intelligent and deserving of care than most of the posters on this site.

        January 9, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  100. Davis Bradley

    Great Story! Thanks for writing about this important subject. My father, who managed military units with working dogs in Vietnam, told so many great stories about the dogs in his unit which had saved so many lives yet 100 dogs were shot in the head when they had to vacate their base in 1974 during the fall of saigon. He said it was the saddest moment in his Vietnam experience. Reclassifying these dogs as assets rather than equipment seems just given the sacrifice that these creatures make. They deserve to be taken care of.

    January 7, 2012 at 8:45 am | Reply
    • Aboda

      Jeremy, ha, yep. Fable also has the power of attacking and bintig the vacuum.Cristina, Yeah, it's especially hard to take pics of black dogs in the snow.Chris, thanks! How'd you stumble onto my blog? Just curious. I take the shots in color and then I convert them in Photoshop to black and white. I shoot in RAW format, which lets me adjust the exposure some after I've taken the pictures, which helps a lot. I use a Pentax K10D Digital SLR camera, and I'm very happy with it. Thanks for visiting!

      April 4, 2012 at 6:23 am | Reply
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