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From big bites to belly rubs

By Cpl. Brendan Roethel | Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort | November 21, 2014

“After my husband passed away two years ago, I had trouble being alone,” said Dianna Brennan, a native of Beaufort. “My house felt quiet and empty without him around. After months of losing him, my daughter who adopted a military working dog, recommended I fill out an application with the Lackland Air Force Base Military Working Dog Kennel.”  
Approximately 300 Military working dogs retire annually from the Department of Defense for reasons ranging from old age to health concerns, and the inability to work. 
“The process starts with either the kennel master deeming the working dog unable to fulfill operational requirements, or the veterinarian might say the working dog has growing health concerns and wants to push the dog toward retirement,” said Sgt. Adam Cook, the military working dog chief trainer with the Provost Marshals Office.
After the dog is recommended for retirement, paperwork and documentation supporting the handler or veterinarian’s claims is submitted from the unit commander to the 341st Training Squadron on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. From there the dog can be given approximately four months to recover and return to service or he or she will be retired. 
Although the dogs are missed when they retire, they often go to one of their previous handlers so the Marine and civilian handlers ultimately know they will be in good hands, Cook said. 
Those wishing to adopt a retiring working dog would have to contact their local military working dog kennel. If a dog is available for adoption and a handler isn’t taking the dog, anyone could apply to receive a dog and be screened by the kennel master and kennel staff, according to Cook.
“I had to wait about 18 months to get Major, my retired working dog,” Brennan said. “When it came time for me to get my dog, I went to the kennel and Major ran up to me right away. He was so lovable and energetic. I knew he was the dog for me the second I saw him.”
Due to the high public interest in adopting retired working dogs approximately 1,000 applications are received each year by the adoption program. Prospective adopters can expect an approximate year-long waiting period before a dog is available for them.
“I walk him daily, take him around town and to different parks,” Brennan said. “He really helped me get out more, and made my house feel less empty. He’s polite, disciplined and well trained. You couldn’t ask for a more amazing dog. My only regret is not putting in an application sooner.”