by Michael Markarian
On Veterans Day, we remember the dedicated men and women who have served our country. But we also shouldn’t forget man’s best friend, who serves faithfully alongside our troops, helping to safeguard military bases and activities, detect bombs and explosives before they inflict harm, and perform other lifesaving duties.
The Humane Society of the United States and its global arm, Humane Society International, have just purchased special cooling vests and pads for military dogs serving in Afghanistan—where temperatures can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Dogs don’t sweat like humans do, and the heat exhaustion has killed several dogs in Afghanistan this year. They also endure the problem of rancid pet food which spoils quickly in the heat.
Major Donna DeBonis, the 993rd Medical Detachment officer in charge of the veterinary treatment facility in Kandahar, reached out to HSUS and HSI to get much-needed help in combating heat exhaustion and making the working environment as safe as possible for military canines. The animal protection groups purchased the special vests and pads to cool down these hot dogs, and FedEx generously offered to ship them for free to Afghanistan.
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The donated vests will help keep the dogs cool by absorbing excess heat from their bodies, allowing them to better regulate their own body temperature. The vests contain a place for inserts that, once charged in ice and water, can reach a temperature of 50 degrees, enabling the dogs to keep working safely for hours without the health risks associated from overheating. The pads will enable dog handlers to carry food with them and avoid spoilage, and will also serve as cool resting pads for dogs to lie on in the backs of vehicles during convoys and mounted patrols.
When I think of Lex, the German shepherd who was injured in a mortar attack in Fallujah, Iraq, and had to be pulled away whimpering from his slain human partner, Marine Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee, I know how important these dogs are to the military and to the men and women who work side-by-side with them. It’s only fitting that we can honor these canine heroes and celebrate the human-animal bond by doing better to safeguard them while they serve our country.