This weekend we remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. I have had the honor of caring for a number of military, police, and detection dogs over the course of my career. From sprains and strains and broken bones, to heart murmurs, arthritis, and hip dysplasia, they are just like any other dog when it comes to the potential for health problems.
There is one particular dog I always remember on Memorial Day weekend. He was a German Shepherd Dog and he and his handler were in the Air Force. They were training one day here in Florida and he succumbed to the heat. He was hospitalized for several days but the damage to his organs was too much for him to overcome and he passed away.
I was there when his handler came to get him and it was the most moving thing I have ever seen in veterinary medicine. The grief that this man in uniform poured out over his partner had everyone at the clinic in tears. After he had spent some time alone with the dog, several other members of the Air Force came in. The K9 was placed on a gurney, draped with an American flag, saluted, and carried out with full military precision.
It took my breath away and still does every time I think about it. There are so many dogs, cats, horses, dolphins, and other animals who have served our country and done so without hesitation and without regard for their own well being. Many have given their lives. We have not always done right by them, but they are all worthy of remembrance and honor. They, too, are heroes.