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Dogs of war honored at Nature Center Allison K. Sampité | Sat, Nov 12 2011 12:00 PM


Veteran's Day is a day for the nation to celebrate its war heroes - active, fallen, reserved and veteran.

But this weekend at the Chula Vista Nature Center, military men, women and their loved ones will be celebrated with military working dogs, who served alongside some of them during combat.

Military working dogs are referred to as the nation's war dogs because they endure intense training and working conditions and sacrifice their lives for the country.

Dr. Brian Joseph is the executive director of the nature center and a veterinarian by trade.

From the fall of 2010 to May this year, Joseph served as the captain of the 109th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services, providing medical services for military working dogs attached with military units overseas.

Joseph, 60, who deployed to Kuwait and Qatar, will give a presentation on what the Army Veterinary Corps does and share stories about his time spent with these animals.

"Most people never get to see the animals that save thousands of lives," he said. "It's a special day for us, we're looking forward to it."

Joseph has been a veterinarian for 27 years and joined the Army Reserve two years ago as a veterinarian.

Dino, a canine that Joseph grew fond of overseas, will be present for the event, along with his handler, Master of Arms Seaman Shelby Gaudet.

The dogs are trained by military handlers, who work with the dogs on patrol searches to apprehend people, but mostly to detect explosives, such as roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices.

"The Army spent several million dollars exploring what the best way to find explosives is," Joseph said. "What they found is it's a dog and a handler."

The dogs, which include Labradors, German shepherds and Belgian malinois, receive two years of training before they go into the field, while handlers receive at least one.

Military working dogs have been used in the military since World War I.

Approximately 4,900 dogs were used for 10 years during the Vietnam War, according to Dr. Howard Hayes, Veterinarian (ret.) of the National Institute of Health. 

It's estimated that the dogs and handlers saved more than 10,000 lives, said Joseph.

Military working dogs spend the same time overseas that servicemen and women do, between six and 12 months.

"I don't think people really understand what an important role is fulfilled (by these dogs)," Joseph said. "It's a very dangerous job ... because they work hard behind the scenes. They save lives every day."

The celebrations will be Nov. 11 and 12 beginning at 2 p.m. For more information call (619) 409-5900.


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