The hero in the romantic suspense novel I’m currently working on isn’t perfect. He’s cynical, dangerous…and suffers from PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a sad testament to our times that we all immediately recognize the name. However, not everyone is aware that military service dogs can develop PTSD too. These animals may exhibit the same symptoms as humans, i.e. fearfulness, anger, distrust, withdrawal.

English: A Military Working Dog practices sear...
English: A Military Working Dog practices searching bags in front of a HMX-1 utility CH-46. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Military dogs are trained to perform duties deemed too dangerous for people. They sniff out explosives, detect snipers and go first into areas where the enemy might be waiting in ambush. The work they do is dangerous and grueling, performed only because of the loyalty and bond shared with their handlers. They save lives and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice just like their human counterparts. These dogs are heroes in every sense of the word.

What happens to them after they’ve served their country? What if they’re wounded and no longer able to perform their duties?

Working dog wearing a "K9 Storm" bul...
Working dog wearing a “K9 Storm” bullet proof vest in Afghanistan, receives training. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s no surprise that VA benefits don’t apply to these retired military warriors. Up until 2000, they were simply euthanized. This included not only mentally and physically disabled dogs returning from war, but dogs that had grown too old to perform their duties and even young dogs that flunked out of the training program. In other words, any animal that ceased to be an asset to the U.S. Military suffered the same fate.

Robby’s Law, named in honor of a military dog, changed everything for future generations. Despite repeated efforts by Robby’s handler to adopt him, Robby was euthanized, giving momentum to this law, adopted and signed by President Clinton in November, 2000. Though the law didn’t save Robby, it has saved the lives of countless other disabled and retired military service dogs.

Now, dogs in the program that don’t pass their aptitude tests, as well as dogs who have served their country, are offered for adoption and the personal handler is given priority. Last year, over 400 dogs were adopted into new homes.

Thinking of adopting a war hero? You can put your name on the list at Lackland Air Force Base, the training center for these dogs, but it could be up to two years before one of them becomes available and the adoption criteria is stringent.


Dog at animal shelter
Dog at animal shelter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not all of us are cut out to adopt military heroes, but there are many older dogs and dogs with health issues just waiting at a shelter or a rescue organization near you. They may have never sniffed out a bomb but they could manage an excited shake of a tail if they had a warm place to sleep, a human to love them and good food. Stop by for a visit sometime. You might even decide to be a hero to one of them.


A few years ago, a little dog named Sophie came into my life. A stray, the humane society didn’t know her age, but diminished eyesight and lack of hearing and coordination told me she was considerably older than the six years they suggested. She was my shadow for a little over four years, and I’m proud to say her last years were happy ones. I got the better end of the deal though. I got to feel like a hero.

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. What’s your idea of a hero?


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20 Responses to Heroes

  1. Betsy Ashton says:

    Terrific reminder that all who suffer in war are human. Yes, humans suffer. They can tell us about it. Dogs of war can’t, so they rely on us to see they have changed and get them help. Thanks for the reminder. Wonderful post.

  2. Vonnie Davis says:

    Hero is a term so often used, yet mightedly misunderstood. I think it involves selfless acts for the betterment of others. No uniform required, just a caring heart. Great post.

    The hero in one of my novellas is an ex-Marine with PTSD. Watching him slowly emerge from a tangled mass of war debris was something I wasn’t prepared for, yet loved.

    You’ve got a very attractive looking blog here. Well done!

  3. dbrown says:

    Thanks, Betsy! Sometimes I think I identify more with animals than I do with people. Oh, well. I’m okay with that! This was an easy piece to write because it touched me. Thanks again for stopping by.

  4. Paty Jager says:

    Dixie, Great information. Does the hero in your book adopt a military dog?

  5. dbrown says:

    Thanks for your kind words, Vonnie. I’ve met your hero, Win. I think I still have a crush on him in fact!

  6. dbrown says:

    Thanks, Paty. Hmmm…that’s a very good idea!

  7. All novels have heros, but a great novel has a great hero. Loved your blog. Nice job.

  8. My brother is a retired airport policeman and he had a drug dog for many, many years. We absolutely loved that dog, Chelsea was her name. She sniffed out those druggies right and left. What a hero.

  9. Sue says:

    Really touched me and I didn’t know about what happens to the dogs after their service. I am glad Robby’s law was inacted, and wish Robby could have benefitted. He was obviously well loved. Thanks Dixie!

  10. dbrown says:

    So true, Michael. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. dbrown says:

    Yay, Chelsea! I’m sure she thought your brother was a hero as well. Thanks, Barb!

  12. dbrown says:

    Thanks, Sue! It’s a bittersweet story. I wish it didn’t always take something tragic to make something good happen. Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Oh, you went and made me cry, Dixie. Sadly, I have heard of PTSD. I have personal experience with, but our war Vets go through trumps me by far. I wrote a book ( currently with Dawn, actually) with a war Vet who has it as well. It saddens me to think of all those poor dogs with it. They need someone to take them home. We got both our puppies from a shelter. To be honest, I hate visiting them. They make me cry, just being there, because I want to take them all home. There’s one near us, where we got our chihuahua, and they have a special place for the older dogs. I sat one day for a while, holding and loving on the sweetest little chihuahua. I wanted to take him home, but he had health issues we couldn’t afford.

    A beautiful post. <3

  14. dbrown says:

    I know exactly what you mean, Joanne. I’m glad there are people who are able to volunteer at shelters, but I’m not one of them. My little Sophie came with health issues too, luckily more inconvenient than expensive. Although there were days I was pretty sure I was solely responsible for my vet’s annual trip to Hawaii! You were smart to consider that beforehand because once you take responsibility for their little lives – whatcha gonna do?

  15. Candi says:

    Great Blog! I also remember Sophie fondly…..I like the idea of a dog character….And what a great reminder that we all have heroic opportunities.

  16. Dixie Brown says:

    Sweet little Sophie… Thanks, Candi!

  17. Laura Cheshire says:

    A great blog, and beautifully done too. I recently saw a documentary on OPB about PTSD which focused on the healing effect that having a service companion dog can have on veterans with disabling PTSD symptoms that was amazing. To think that dogs can be of such service to those who serve really touches my heart. Heros say, “It must be done. I can do it and I will do it. And they do.” And how amazingly awesome it is that they come in all shapes, sizes , sexes, ages, and species.

  18. Dixie Brown says:

    It truly is awesome. Thanks for stopping by, Laura!

  19. Home Page says:

    Great article, totally what I needed.

  20. Marty Chery says:

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