FORT IRWIN, Calif. (March 20, 2014) -- For the Bogg's family, there was no doubt they would open their home to a retired combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Thomas and Angela Boggs welcomed Max, a 10-year-old retired military working dog, into their home on Fort Irwin, after adopting the Belgian Malinois, Oct. 23. Max's days of supporting the law enforcement mission here had just ended. Max served this military installation beginning in 2006 and deployed to Afghanistan that same year while attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). An explosion injured the dog's shoulders and left, hind quarter. Max was treated at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and returned to serve here, in 2007.
Last year, Tom, who is the Physical Security and Crime Prevention Officer here, was informed that the canine's best years as a bite and narcotics dog were behind him.
"It was time," Tom said about Max retiring. "His bite wasn't what it used to be. He wasn't aggressive like he used to be. So, he was (ready) for retirement."
Tom explained that military working dogs are trained to be bite dogs and are taught a secondary role, sniffing out explosives or narcotics. Angela, who previously trained German Shepherd dogs in Germany, stated that Max's bite was at 85 percent. Max was still active duty, but was not being utilized as much, and spent a lot of time in the military working dog kennels here. The Boggs immediately knew they wanted Max, so Angela headed to the kennel to meet and hopefully connect with the black and gold-colored canine.
"The story is that she took steak and chicken over there to him, to bond with him," Tom reminisced with a chuckle. "Wait a minute, he's getting steak and chicken, what about me? I know where my stature is in this household."
Max took to Angela immediately.
"He's my shadow," Angela said. "Wherever I go, he follows."
Since the adoption, Tom has described Max as a laid back, old dog done with work. Max has put on some weight, increasing to 122 pounds from 88 in October, said Tom. Max does a lot of sleeping during the day and stays at the Bogg's feet when they watch TV in the evenings. The retired pooch has a calm disposition and rarely barks.
"He hasn't shown any aggression toward anybody," Tom said. "We've heard him bark twice since we've had him. That's it. He doesn't bark. He's retired."
Tom believes retired military working dogs should be adopted after their duty has been completed, and a Department of Defense program at JBSA-Lackland allows civilians to do just that. Tom, who is also a retired Army veteran and Purple Heart (three times) recipient from service in Vietnam, describes Max's career as being similar to Soldiers, who have performed an invaluable service to the United States. Tom served as a cavalry scout with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, and handled military dogs. He saw firsthand the contributions of military dogs to Soldiers.
"How many Soldiers have our canines -- who we have working for the military -- saved?" Tom asked. "And we're going to put them down, because we have no use for them anymore? Wait a minute -- adopt them out. They're just old. They're old dogs looking for a place to go, to be treated like a dog, a pet, and be part of a family. That's all they want. So, why not give it to them."
Angela explained that Max has PTSD. She soothes Max and is able to put the dog at ease as he lies down. And while Max loves to lounge around, the big dog also enjoys an assortment of toys at home.
"They deserve to have a good remainder of their lives," Tom said about retired canines. "They deserve that. They protected Soldiers from a lot of things. They put up with a lot of stuff that we, as human beings, would not put up with."
The majority of the 2,500 working dogs who serve in the military are raised and trained at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog program at JBSA-Lackland, said Coleen McGee, director of public affairs with the 37th Training Wing at JBSA-Lackland. She explained that about 900 are on station, and approximately 500-600 dogs are deployed. The program breeds 100 puppies per year and acquires another 130 per quarter from Europe.