26 May, 2018
The four medal winners lined up to take their turns on the stage. They were mostly quiet and calm. Except for Summer, who could not stop burying her nose into Sgt.Taker.
Her act is not as strange as it might sound because Summer is a dog – and an extremely intelligent, loyal and brave military dog, like all the winners. Summer, Sgt. Taker, Jag and Taba have spent years in conflict areas searching for explosives, tracking dangerous people and taking part in raids.
Recently, they came to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. to receive the American Humane Lois Pope K-9 Medal of Courage. American Humane is a more than 100–year-old nonprofit group. It supports American war dogs and other animal interests.
Lois Pope believes the dogs' work is critical. Pope was an opening speaker at the ceremony. She said it was time to honor the animals that "serve on the other end of the leash," saving "hundreds of thousands of lives."
Nine-year-old Taba, a Dutch shepherd, was the first dog awarded. She climbed the stairs quickly and gracefully even though she recently lost a leg to cancer.
Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Kearney presented Taba with the medal. He praised her two years of service, including "many dangerous raids during her deployment to Afghanistan."
Next up was Jag, along with his partner Army Sergeant Dennis Dow. The man and the Labrador retriever began training together more than ten years ago. Jag learned to identify explosives and other threats. He used those skills to help protect soldiers in Germany and Afghanistan. Admiral Kearney praised Jag for his seven years of, in Kearney's words, "tireless bravery and keen sense of detection."
Jag now lives happily with Dow and his family, although Dow joked that he lived with Jag and his family.
Marine Corps Colonel Zachary White awarded the medals of courage to Sgt. Taker and Summer.
Sgt. Taker is a black-furred Labrador retriever. At 12-years-old, he is starting to gray a little around his friendly face. Taker served in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He is now retired and lives with one of the Marines he served with, United States Marine Corps Sergeant Kevin Zuniga.
Zuniga said he and Taker spent 20 hours a day together during their deployment.
"We slept together, we played together," he said. Zuniga says Taker was also a comfort to the other Marines. He helped break the loneliness and the tension that can come with war, Zuniga said.
Finally, it was Summer's turn. The energetic 7-year old jumped up on stage with her partner Micah Jones, a retired U.S. Air Force Sergeant. Summer is also a Labrador retriever – or, Lab – but smaller than Taker and yellow-furred.
When Summer served with the U.S. Marines Corps, she found many hidden weapons and bombs. Now, Summer is retired from the military. But she is still serving America. She is a member of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration K-9 Team. She and Jones work together to keep passengers and crew safe on Amtrak passenger railroad service.
So, Summer is still using her nose to sniff out danger – as well as to make friends.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Caty Weaver wrote this story. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Words in This Story
stage – n. a raised platform in a theater, auditorium, etc., where the performers stand
leash – n. a long, thin piece of rope, chain, etc., that is used for holding a dog or other animal
gracefully – adv. moving in a smooth and attractive way
comfort – v. to cause (someone) to feel less worried, upset, frightened, etc.: to give comfort to (someone)
sniff out – phrasal verb to smell (something or someone) by taking air in through your nose in short breaths