Lando: Our Family’s Canine War HeroWhat better way to celebrate K-9 Veteran’s Day than to share our war hero’s story with you? Two years ago, my family attended a retirement ceremony for Military Working Dog (MWD) Lando. We had made the decision several months earlier to adopt him as part of our family.

During the ceremony, MWD Lando was presented with an Army Achievement Medal for his exemplary service. His achievements really are pretty incredible. He was born in September of 2001, and he entered training for military service in December of 2003.  After his training, he was stationed in Germany where he was attached to several different military police companies until his retirement.

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While on active duty, MWD Lando deployed four times (to Afghanistan, Kosovo, and twice to Iraq), where he supported soldiers with his explosive detection capabilities.  Lando participated in over 300 combat missions where he discovered a total of 15 explosive caches. Impressive, right? It gets even better. In addition to his deployments, Lando also provided support for the U.S. Secret Service including protection of the Secretary of State, Vice President, and the President of the United States. Our favorite of Lando’s accomplishments was his selection as “Top Dog” in the Patrol Work category of the 2008 USAREUR Military Working Dog Competition. He is definitely a very special K-9! At the end of Lando’s retirement ceremony, the presenters asked us to join them on stage where they presented us with a Certificate of Adoption and thanked us for volunteering to give Lando a safe and happy home for retirement. I don’t think anyone in the room would have argued that this dog earned every minute of lazy time on our couch.

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When we decided to adopt Lando, we had recently lost our sweet old dog to cancer. As fellow dog-lovers know all too well, you get so accustomed to having that unconditional love and companionship be a part of your everyday lives. Despite my tiresome mantra of “we can’t get another dog right now, we really need to wait,” I found myself dialing a number to inquire about a dog. But this wasn’t just any dog. The Facebook post read, “Do you want to adopt a war hero?”

Although we certainly knew about the amazing MWD program, it never occurred to us that we would be adopting one of these a wonderful war heroes. It turns out, not only is the program huge in the military with around 2,500 MWDs deployed with troops overseas, but adoption of the retired MWD veterans has also become a sought after affair since President Clinton signed a bill in 2000 allowing adoption of retired MWDs. In fact, awareness of these well-trained heroes seems to be making the news everywhere including this Washington Times slideshow showing MWDs in action.

We are certainly a lucky family to have a retired MWD protecting our home. Not every MWD is like our war hero. Lando is the most even-tempered, calm, and affectionate animal. He immediately fit in with our family, including our two cats and our young boys. I was pregnant with my youngest when we adopted him, and Lando is convinced that our boy is his puppy. He protects our boys as if they were his own.

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MWDs retire for many reasons. Some are diagnosed with PTSD, some are injured, but many just grow old and are no longer able to perform their military services. Lando served until he was eleven years old, and the day we met him he was still able to complete the training course with ease. He is thirteen years old now, so his training days are far behind him, but he makes the best hiking and traveling companion, and he is a huge light in our lives.

Happy K-9 Veteran’s Day, Lando!

Would you ever consider adopting a military working dog?