By Walt Johnson | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation hosted its annual Warrior Dog Memorial Run at Iron Horse Park April 24, 2021.
Chilly temperatures and light snow flurries greeted Soldiers, Family members and their pets as the event began at 8 a.m. The event is normally held in March in conjunction with K-9 Veterans Day, but was postponed due to weather. The run is an unofficial recognition of military working dogs and their handlers, said Brandy Foe, Fort Carson special events coordinator. Due to the COVID-19 guidelines, Foe added, the 230 people who signed up for the event went out at different times with no more than 25 runners and pets leaving at one time. The heats ran every half hour from 8-10 a.m.
Foe said recognizing and appreciating the work being done by military and civilian working dogs in defense of the nation was a key reason everyone seemed excited for the event.
“We appreciate the work military working dogs do for our military men and women, who put their lives on the line every day for our nation,” Foe said. “We are so excited to have the opportunity to have an event like this to recognize these brave animals who put their (lives) on the line just as much, and in some cases even more (than) service members, when they are called to perform their duties.”
Spc. Jeremy Nelson, echoed Foe’s praise for the military working dogs as he prepared his service dog for a demonstration for an assembled crowd. Nelson said it was important to honor and recognize the military working dogs because they are serving just like the human service members. The dogs give years of their life helping to defend the country and ensure the service members have a chance to come home from the battlefield, he added.
“I really feel good today knowing that they’re getting the honor and recognition that they so richly deserve,” Nelson said.
It took about three months for Nelson to build the bond and the working relationship he said he has with his military working dog. Similar to humans, dogs have their own personality, so it took them a while to get to know and understand each other, he added.
“During the first three months I was brand new to her and she was brand new to me,” Nelson said. “So it was an adjustment period for her to listen to me and want to listen to me, which was the biggest struggle we had. After those three months though it clicked, and we have been best friends ever since — going on three years.”
The Fort Carson veterinary clinic staff also spends a lot of time with the military working dogs, and they beamed with pride Saturday as they watched the working dogs and family pets under their care take part in the event.
Capt. Mayleema Holm, 438th Veterinary Services Detachment, said her unit provides service to all the military working dogs in the Colorado Springs area, as well as general veterinary services for the Families on post.
“While there are veterinarians assigned to the Air Force installations in the area, they don’t do any clinical work like we do for all pets,” Holm said. “Currently in this region, only Army veterinarians are doing clinical work for the military working dogs.”
Holm spoke about one of the many times the unit nursed a working dog back to health. Like humans, working dogs can come down with an illness that takes some time to figure out. In one case the working dog had an issue with his ears that took some time to solve successfully.
“One of our military working dogs came in and he happens to be a super friendly and people-loving working dog,” Holm said. “He was having chronic ear infections that took us some time to get to the bottom of. At one appointment, we cultured it and sent it out for testing, and we found the right antibiotic that we could put him on and treat him effectively. Because he was in and out so much,
we built up a great relationship with him, and we were just so happy when we were finally able to treat him and get him well. He turned out to be one of our favorite military working dogs because we got to see him so much.”
Dina Brown brought both of her pets to the event, though it was nothing out of the ordinary for her or her four-legged friends. Brown said she and her pets have a regular running routine and the 5K was just another run for them.
Brown said the runs have been a good and healthy activity for everyone, as both pets have lost weight.