Military dogs to have their day(s) in Oswego : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Military dogs to have their day(s) in Oswego|
|'Warrior Dog Project' includes special events, benefits over next two weeks|
|by Matt Schury|
Pat Gavros feels for America's furry four-legged soldiers.
The Oswego resident is organizing a series of fundraisers and events over the next two weeks for what she is calling the Warrior Dog Project.
The mission of the project is to raise funds and awareness for military working dogs (MWDs). The canines are used by the U.S. military in a manner similar to police dogs (K-9 units) in sniffing out bombs and chemicals.
In the military the dogs also serve tactically and on patrols.
Gavros is no stranger to community efforts. Last summer she collected over 3,000 pairs of shoes for a memorial in downtown Oswego to remember all of the lives that were lost on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.
Gavros said her interest in the MWDs began with an email she received.
"I always tell people I'm a very visual person and very emotional person. I got an email and it showed a dog jumping out of an airplane and I'm like 'What the heck is that?'" she said.
She then started researching military working dogs. When she found out how many lives they save she knew she had to do something.
"I saw how many lives they've (the dogs) saved...that was the amazing thing, they are so much more efficient than the high technology the government has. I thought, that's phenomenal," she said.
Gavros came across the website Save-A-Vet.org that pairs disabled veterans with military working dogs and gives them a place to live.
The Save-A-Vet's website indicates that they rescue former military and law enforcement working dogs and service animals by pairing them with disabled veterans who can help care for them.
The founder of the site Danny Scheurer will be at the final event set for Saturday, April 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Petco in Oswego along with Nero a Belgian Malinois who was part of the U.S. Navy Seal Team Six that took down Osama Bin Laden.
Gavros said if you're planning to stop by it's best to treat Nero with the respect reserved for a dog that helped take down Bin Laden.
"Nero is not really a petting dog. I've met Nero and he's kind of laid back but just be kind of careful how you approach him," she said.
Nero is also a hero, according to Gavros.
"That dog is really credited with saving several hundred lives in a mess hall because he smelled explosives in a garbage truck," she noted.
Gavros said that prior to a 2000 law allowing people to adopt the MWDs they were sometimes euthanized, which broke her heart.
"A lot of people are crazy about their pets and I adore our dog but I just think they (military working dogs) should be treated the best we can treat them and I think it's terrible that (a dog) could save thousands of lives and then would be euthanized," she said.
Gavros has also been in touch with Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan, an Iraq war veteran, who tells the story of how a Golden Retriever service dog named Tuesday helped him through crippling post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home.
On Friday, April 13 Montalvan will be speaking about his New York Times best-selling book "Until Tuesday" during an assembly at Oswego High School and will also be at a luncheon at the at Tap House Grill in Oswego and Fox Valley Winery, also in Oswego, at 7 p.m.
Gavros said Montalvan's book was one of the most emotional things she has read. Tuesday was not a MWD but Gavros said it further shows the connections and help dogs can provide to our men and women in uniform.
"It gave him a life, it opened up a whole new existence that that poor guy would have never had had he not gotten that dog," she said. "Giving them hope for the future, guys that come back either broken physically or spiritually and don't have a place to live and then them come in contact with this dog and it changes their lives and what's that worth," she said.
Gavros admits that MWDs are not for everyone.
"It takes a special family but you can apply for it," she said. "They were trained to be aggressive and it takes a certain kind of family to take care of these dogs."
The military mainly uses Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds-working dogs who like to work and be rewarded-as well as Labradors. There is a puppy breeding facility at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and the department of defense will buy some qualifying dogs from breeders, Gavros said.
The department of defense has a lengthy document that says what it takes for a dog to be an MWD.
"Sadly some of them when they are trained they do real well in the state and when they go over (deployed) and they start hearing shelling some can't take it," she said. "They might start cowering or whimpering and try to retrain them and some of them they simply can't. They are not fit for active duty."
What are Doggles?
The Warrior Dog Project events will also benefit supportmilitaryworkingdogs.org, a site started by the mother of a marine stationed in Iraq with a MWD, in that buys equipment for the dogs.
The military typically supplies these dogs with high tech equipment like bullet proof vests and GPS units but the smaller items like protection for their eyes (Doggles) or equipment to cool the animal down (ChillyDog vests) are left to donations.
"They estimated that the vest that he wore on that mission cost a minimum of $20,000 it had a GPS and it was made out of Kevlar and it could resist knife attacks and bullets. They go in with cameras on them and an ear piece so the handler give them directions," she said. "People ask what's a chilly vest? What are MuttLuks? What are Mutt Muffs? What are Doggles?" she said.
Gavros says she stands behind these dogs because they are the ones standing with our veterans.
She adds that her goal is not to just raise money but also awareness and educate the public on the way these dogs assist men and women in the military.
"I just hope it's a project that people can really see this is something for veterans this is something that we need to do, we need to help these people and do what ever we can to bring awareness," she said.
Gavros says she still needs support and volunteers. Information and tickets for the above events as well as others are on Gavros' website at thewarriordogproject.myevent.com/