National K-9 Veterans Day is celebrated on March 13th on the official birthday of the U.S. Army K-9 Corps, formed in 1942. Joseph White, a retired military working dog trainer, originated the idea for the day.
A lot of things changed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Oil, leather and rubber were rationed. Men were drafted. Women rolled up their sleeves and built war supplies and dogs were called to duty. During the First World War, the United States took notice of the European use of canines as sentries, message carriers and several other duties.
“Dogs for Defense” was a program initiated by private citizen Mrs. Alene Erlanger, who graduated from Barnard College in 1912. She was captain of the Red Cross at Fort Monmouth (New Jersey) during World War I. During WWII she organized the program, which arranged for the donation of dogs for military service and placed them in homes after the war. As a civilian consultant to the quartermaster general from 1942-45, Erlanger helped found the K-9 corps, wrote training manuals, and supervised dog training programs. She was awarded the “Exceptional Civilian Service Award” in 1945.
By November 1942, the first “Dogs for Defense” were trained and assigned to duty in North Africa. While at first they were gun shy, they proved to be well-trained. As the war progressed, the program couldn’t keep up with demand and the Army’s Remount Branch, Service Installations Divisions took over training of the dogs.
Over the years, the military, police departments and rescue operators have developed a variety of training methods for K-9 units. Their training is tailored to meet the demands of the job.
On Sunday, K-9 Veterans Day, all military dogs should be commemorated. This is an unofficial holiday, but enthusiasts are making efforts to change that.
Since creation of the K-9 Corps, dogs officially became the part of military service and are included in agencies such as the Customs and Border Patrol, the Secret Service, the FBI, Homeland Security and countless police operations and airports.
They continue serving every day and trained to provide numerous functions, including search, rescue, explosives detection, scout and patrol.