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Four Legged Soldiers

Soldier

“Eisenhower” strutting his stuff in a parade after retirement.

One of the greatest benefits of working at SportDOG is that we get to hear a lot of outstanding stories about amazing dogs. Every story is awesome, but every once in a while we run across one that we can’t help but share. One of our customers shared with us the story of how one soldiers IDD dog came to be a vital member of their family and it’s too cool not to pass on. At the request of the customer we have changed the names in the story of this outstanding dog to ensure they are not overly inundated with communications as well as to protect a soldier that may have shed a justifiable tear. Below is the story of an amazing four legged soldier and the lives he’s changed:

In 2006, the United States Marine Corps decided to test a new program, the IDD (Improvised Explosives Detection Dog) program. Eisenhower was purchased on contract from a company to be in the group of 7 of the very first “test subjects”. Coming in as a 3 year old dog, he was trained completely off leash to patrol 100 yards in front of patrols guided by a whistle and hand and arm signals from his handler. Upon detection of explosives, he was taught to lay down to signal the handler, thus preventing the patrol from going into harm’s way.

The difference between the IDD program and other k-9 Military programs is that the dogs were not matched up with actual K-9 handlers, instead they were matched up with Infantry members chosen by their superiors. The infantry member then went to a short course in Virginia to learn how to properly use the dog to prevent deaths on deployments. This was such a great idea because often time actual k-9 handlers do not deploy to the extremely dangerous places that Infantry goes, as they are the first to go in and clear new villages.

Eisenhower excelled at his job, and was quickly known as best in his class. He was taken around to the “higher-ups” and used as a demo dog, and he sold them on the program. There are now over 300 IDD’s in the Marine Corps and so many lives hanve been saved!

In 2007, Eisenhower L515 left for his first deployment. Captain Todd Eisenhower was the Operations Officer for the battalion that deployed. He was only in country (Iraq) for one week when his Humvee ran over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and he was instantly killed. Due to his loyalty and love for the IDD dogs, Eisenhower L515 was renamed in his honor due to him being the best IDD dog there was.

Eisenhower went on to serve the rest of that deployment, plus 2 more deployments to Iraq and 1 deployment to Afghanistan before retiring in 2012 at the age of 9.

My husband was an infantry member in the Marine Corps and had the honor of being chosen to be an IDD handler for his last deployment in 2009. He has always had a love to for dogs, and he really enjoyed the job. He was matched up with Eisenhower and they grew a bond that I did not even know was possible between an animal and a human. Eisenhower had many “finds” during his deployment with my husband, including 3 finds that would have certainly resulted in serious injury or the death of my husband and his Marines. He is such an amazing dog and my children and I are forever is his debt for keeping their daddy safe.

In July of 2012 I received a phone call telling me that Eisenhower was ready to retire. At 9 years of age he was getting arthritis that was not going to allow him to deploy anymore. Without telling my husband, I planned a road trip with my mother and daughter and we made the 32 hour round trip to Virginia and picked up Eisenhower, now this hero dog was ours. He laid his head in my 4 year old daughter’s lap for the entire ride home, and I just knew it was meant to be.

Once home, my husband (who thought we were at a rabbit show) couldn’t believe it! Eisenhower ran straight to him and jumped right up in his lap (quite a sight since he is an 80 lb Labrador!) Eisenhower laid his head on my husband’s shoulder….and for the first time in the 13 years I have known my husband, I saw a tear run down his cheek. It was amazing! They are never without each other.

Eisenhower is 10 years old now. He gets monthly shots for arthritis, monthly shots for allergies, is on a prescription dog food, has tendonitis in his front left leg, and a few months ago had a 7 hour surgery that removed his spleen and a 13 lb tumor, luckily it was not cancerous. They didn’t think he would make it through the surgery…but he is still here, happy as ever. Getting slower, but still ever as anxious for someone to throw the ball so he can gently amble after it, then walk it back to repeat the process. We know that we probably don’t have more than a couple of years at most left with our buddy, so we are savoring each day, and I am trying not to think about what the future will bring without Eisenhower there to bring the “normality” that he has given to us. It is so hard to put into words what he means to me, and even more so to my husband.

Do you have an outstanding K9 in your life? Share their story with us.

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