By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Since it's Thanksgiving it seemed appropriate to give thanks for our war dogs and acknowledge the significant role they're playing in our wars. As Tom points out, even the Pentagon has determined -- after spending vast sums of defense dollars -- bomb-sniffing dogs are more valuable to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq detecting IEDs than any technology developed to date. It's now a matter of fact that these military dogs are not only worthy of our attention, but the substantial resources the U.S. government devotes to them.
Be they official service dogs, or war-zone strays, they are more than military machines, or danger-detection devices -- they are empaths, healers, loyal friends, and brave soldiers. Their contribution to the war effort extends far beyond the battlefield into homes and hospital rooms. The military has been offering life-long service dogs to wounded veterans since World War I. There are some new and still-developing programs that use canines a means of therapy to help soldiers cope with returning to life after war -- whether it's an injury, PTSD, or deep depression, these programs have so far proven tremendously successful.
Here's a short list of some rehabilitative programs making news lately. (Note: many are certified 501c(3) non-profit organizations and take donations. 'Tis the season ... ) We know there are more, so please send us the ones we've missed.
Staff Sgt. Mitchell Stein and Artus, his military working dog, patrol an entry control point at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 2, 2010.
Staff Sgt. Frederick Thiessen lays flowers in front of a plaque dedicated to Ronnie, a fallen 39th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, during his memorial ceremony Feb. 25, 2010, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.