Doc, an IED device detection dog with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, retrieves a bumper during training at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, in March 2013. (Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline/Marine Corps)
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Think you could provide a good home to a retiring Marine Corps IED detection dog?
You might get the chance to adopt one if you send in an application, said Bill Childress, head of the Marine Corps Military Working Dog program. But you may have to get in line.
While some 100 dogs will be moved to new situations as the Marine Corps ends its IDD capability, Childress said they’re giving top priority to Defense Department programs, then law enforcement agencies and police departments that need working dogs. Former handlers also receive preference, and can ask to adopt the dog they worked with by referencing the animal’s name and the identification number tattooed on its ear.
Since IDDs may have a different handler for each combat deployment, it’s possible that multiple former handlers may request the same dog, Childress said. In those cases, he said, officials with the program exercise their best judgment to determine who is best qualified to adopt the former four-legged teammate. Handlers who have been wounded in combat often get the first chance to adopt their dogs, he said.
“We get the other ones together and tell them, this guy lost a leg, an arm,” Childress said. “Most of them say, ‘Hey, no problem.’ They sort of work together. Handlers have a pretty good bond.”
Though taking home a beautiful and highly trained Belgian malinois for the cost of transporting the dog might sound like a good deal, Childress warned that many of the dogs have medical issues that might require extensive resources or attention. In addition to combat injuries, he said, a number of former IDDs display symptoms of CPTSD — canine post-traumatic stress disorder — that can make the animals anxious or skittish.
“Sometimes you’ve got to understand, if you adopt this dog, it might have a $200-a-month medical bill,” he said. “A lot of times, a vet in the area will end up adopting that dog.”
To start the adoption process:
■ Fill out the three-page military working dog application, located at http://www.37trw.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130329-166.pdf.
■ Email the completed document to firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ If you’re specifically interested in an IDD, email email@example.com for an application.
Childress said officials try to accommodate the requests of prospective adoptive households, while making sure the requested animal is a good fit for the adoptive home and circumstances.
“If you want to adopt a Belgian malinois that’s been patrol trained — and say that you’ve got two small kids, a baby and a 1-year-old — we might not let you adopt that dog,” he said. “How about a Lab[rador], something a little friendlier for your kids.”
Childress said he’s working to find new situations for the remaining Marine IDDs by the first quarter of next year.