By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense chief canine correspondent
Last weekend a Royal Air force team and their dogs took a sponsored-stroll to raise funds for charity. Starting at half past midnight on Saturday morning the determined group walked a whopping 37 miles following a predetermined route in order to raise "more than £14,000 for Help for Heroes and Children's Hospice South West." The press release posted by the RAF made it clear that: "All of the dogs are very friendly and can be approached by the public on route."
The incredible canines who made the journey were:
Campbell, a Springer Spaniel, is a Vehicle Search Dog who can search any type of vehicle [who did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan]; Kontessa, a Shepherd, is a police dog and carries out very similar duties as civilian police dogs; Zeus, a Shepherd, is a Patrol Dog who patrols and guards RAF Lyneham and the Service Families Accommodation; Jack, a black Labrador, is a Drug Detection Dog.
A 37-mile walk over two days is no stroll in the park, and the officers -- both four-legged and the two-legged alike -- had to be physically up to the challenge in order to participate.
A British Forces News reporter caught up with the walkers along the way and spoke to Cpl. Chris Archard who called the walk as a bit of a "roller coaster." For while the first leg relatively easy, as the group moved into a more open area, the temperature dropped. Soon after the walkers encountered a series of hills that, as Archard described, appeared "to [grow] incredibly as we were walking them." The team, which carried on straight through the night, made it to their destination in one piece albeit tired and sweaty. This wasn't the first time the do-gooding dogs and their handlers had marched to raise money for a cause. After that first, long walk in 2009 Archard recalls, "we said never again, [but after] a year ... we thought, let's do it again."
And in news a little closer to home, here's a PSA for the DC area. America's VetDogs -- a nonprofit organization that matches up disabled Vets with specially trained dogs -- is sponsoring its first annual 5K Run/Walk in Annapolis, MD on Sunday, April 3. The group's goal is to generate the funds necessary to cover the cost of one of these remarkable canines -- $50,000. To register or for more information, you can visit their site or on facebook. "Every participant will receive a free shirt, a free raffle ticket, and free food and drinks after the race! The top three finishers in each age division will receive a beautiful medal." And I've been told there will be plenty of dogs on site...
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.