Tails magazine presents...

On Soldiers and Pooches

In Animal News on September 9, 2008 at 9:15 pm

The Washington Humane Society recently launched a new program, Dog Tags, which coaches wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to teach homeless dogs behaviors that will make them more adoptable. The program, a three-tiered, certificate-based curriculum, functions as an intensive preparation for careers in animal training for our wounded soldiers.

The program is, from every vantage point, unquestionably an admirable one. The sharply pointed career focus of the program makes it both unflinchingly practical and yet draws attention to the true value of such practicality at the same time. I admit that the matter of how great the need is for dog trainers remains a mystery to me, though it is likely a growing vocation. And I have no doubt that Dog Tags will be a raging success, if for no other reason than that it gives wounded soldiers an opportunity to focus on living beings who lovingly respond to their every command––or caress, as the case may be.

I do have doubts, however, that most of these veterans, no matter how willingly they participate, want to make a career out of animal training, per se, which, certificates of graduation notwithstanding, I would imagine is beside the point for most. The training these brave soldiers bestow on these love-starved homeless animals, after all, is aimed at making them adoptable, better companions to live with in the wake of often traumatic pasts. And it’s a well-known truth that the best therapy for oneself is that you give to someone else. Once these brave soldiers and tender animal trainers complete their Dog Tags training and––better yet––are physically well enough to return home to their families, I think military families across the country will experience a spike in more than animal-training competence in their midst. I bet your bottom dollar that more than a few of those families will welcome some very patriotic furry companions into their homes to stay.

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