They have names – Lucky. Oogie. Fistik. Even Satan. Trained by the military, they have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, living in close quarters and risking their lives alongside their comrades, bonding with them under fire. Even the enemy is aware of their unique skills in sniffing out explosives and their importance to their units and their unquestioned loyalty and the devotion they engender.

Trained military canines do more than save the lives of the soldiers they serve with, they boost the morale of the injured and those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but when their deployment ends they are returned to the states like a piece of surplus military equipment to be dispensed with like a truck, weapon or helmet.

American soldiers sent into harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq face danger at every turn and for some, the trust they place in their canine partners can mean the difference between life and death, and something they often repay in kind.

When they came under fire, “The first thing that went though my mind was, “My dog’s gonna get shot,”” says one unnamed soldier who ignored all his Army training and threw himself over his dog, Oogie.

“The few times you safeguard your dog are slim compared to what he does every time you go outside the wire. That’s your dog. The dog saves you and saves your team.”

The next week, the soldier got Oogie’s paw print tattooed on his chest.

When their deployment ended, the soldier said a tearful goodbye to Oogie, but with the understanding that a federal statute, “Robby’s Law,” that allows handlers to adopt their dogs after service, would reunite them.

Three years later, Oogie has vanished and the government agency responsible for the dogs refuses to give him any information about his whereabouts.

The solider is one of over 200 handlers who believe their canine partners were sold to civilians and given to government workers, including at least one Pentagon official, as “status symbols” by K2 Solutions, a private contractor that trains the dogs for service.

In addition to the betrayal of the soldiers and the dogs, there is a concern that the animals, who also suffer PTSD, have been adopted into homes, possibly with children, by people who have not been properly vetted.

Former Marine Nick Beckham says learned that his dog, Lucky, was adopted by the CEO of K2, Lane Kjellsen, when an employee contacted him.

When he was contacted for a comment, Kjellsen, blamed the Army for the unlawful sale of war dogs, but says he will only talk if he is subpoenaed as part of an official investigation.

Beckham is devastated. “Lucky was my first and only dog. He was my best friend.”

 

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