Dogs have served alongside military men and women since antiquity with the same bravery and loyalty as their human counterparts. Dogs have been used as scouts, guards, messengers, bomb sniffers, and trackers.
The official Dogs for Defense program, a U.S. military canine recruitment and training initiative, was launched in 1942, making military K9s official military members. It is only fitting, therefore, that we honor the commitment and sacrifice of the military dogs, many of whom have given their lives to keep our troops safe and our freedoms intact.
K9 Veterans Day is March 13 and here are the Top 10 Ways to Honor K9 Veterans Day.
10. Visit a War Dog Memorial
Show your appreciation for the dedicated service of K9 Veterans by visiting one of many War Dog Memorials. The United States’ National War Dog Cemetery is located on the U.S. Naval Base in Guam and is guarded over by a statue, named “Always Faithful,” of Cappy, a hero Doberman that is credited with saving the lives of countless Marines in 1944.
If Guam is a bit out of your way, then you could visit a war dog memorial that is closer to home. In Bristol, Pennsylvania, there is the War Dog Memorial that honors the military K9s from all branches of service who were killed in every American war since World War I.
The Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, which honors both the dogs and their human handlers, is found at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Holmdel, New Jersey, is home to the U.S. War Dogs Memorial, which features a bronze sculpture by Bruce Lindsay of a military K9 and his soldier handler. Some states have smaller memorials to honor their local military K9s. Check with your state to see if there is a war dog memorial park nearby.
9. Watch a War Dog Movie
Honor military K9s and learn more about their experiences by watching a war dog movie. Fortunately, there are several to choose from. The 2017 film, Megan Leavey, is a true story of a young Marine named Megan Leavey, and her partner, a combat dog named Rex, as they complete their tour of duty during the Iraq war. The inspiring film stars Kate Mara as the title character and Varco, a German Shepherd, as Rex.
Max, released in 2015, is the story of a war dog named Max, played by a pooch named Carlos. When his handler, Kyle, is killed in war, Max returns to the U.S. to live with his handler’s family where he helps Kyle’s younger brother cope with Kyle’s death.
Another inspiring war dog movie is the 2007 Finding Rin Tin Tin, which tells the incredible true story of a canine war hero in World War I France who finds success as a Hollywood star after the war was over.
8. Visit the Smithsonian
Washington DC’s Smithsonian Institute has an entire exhibit devoted to the military K9s of World War I and the important work that they accomplished for the war effort. Featured prominently in the Smithsonian’s display is the story of Sergeant Stubby, a Boston Terrier pooch who became the most decorated K9 of the first World War. For his heroics in battle—including the capture of a German spy—, Stubby was the only dog promoted to the rank of sergeant.
7. Wear Your Support on Your Sleeve
You can honor K9 Veterans Day by wearing your support on your sleeve…and the rest of your shirt! Café Press sells a T-shirt proclaiming, “I Support K9 Veterans Day” on their website. Available in a variety of colors, this shirt will let the world know that you honor and remember the service and bravery of the military’s K9 members.
6. Your Dog Can Wear His Support, Too
Your dog can show his support for the sacrifices made by his fellow dogs. Café Press also sells doggie T-shirts that honor K9 Veterans Day. In fact, they offer several military dog shirts. This particular one, however, has wording on the back of the shirt that answers the question, “What is a Veteran?” The doggie shirt is available in six sizes, from small to XXX-large, so all dogs, from Chihuahuas and Dachshunds to Saint Bernards and Newfoundlands and all breeds in between, can show their support for K9 veterans.
5. Donate Dog Supplies to Your Local VA Hospital
Most of the nation’s VA hospitals now include programs in which K9 veterans regularly visit the human patients. Numerous studies have shown that hospital patients benefit from contact with dogs. Petting a dog reduces stress, lowers one’s heart rate, and boost morale. Visiting VA hospitals is beneficial for the K9 veterans, too. They stay busy and active while providing support to human veterans. Although K9 veterans are not housed at VA hospitals, most facilities would welcome a donation of dog food, doggie treats, and dog toys for the heroic K9 veterans that continue to serve their country by visiting VA hospitals to comfort their brothers and sisters in arms. Check with the VA hospital nearest you to see if you can drop off some supplies to show your appreciation for K9 Veterans Day.
4. Donate to Operation Military K9 Care
The United States War Dog Association, Inc. is dedicated to honoring the important work of military K9s and their human handlers. Among the work this organization does is to help with medical and prescription drug costs for K9 veterans, emotional support for veteran dogs with PTSD, and pet supplies for returning K9 military members. The U.S. War Dog Association’s Operation Military K9 Care Program collects donations of pet supplies and sends them to military dogs currently serving overseas. The United States War Dog Association’s website has a complete list of the items most commonly needed by the military dogs, along with information about how you can donate. Among the supplies you can donate to this organization to show your support for K9 veterans on K9 Veterans Day are dog booties, dog shampoo, rope chew toys, boxes of dog biscuits, grooming supplies, heated sleeping mats, and K9 Advantix flea and tick meds.
3. Support Military Dogs Through K9 Soldier Treats
The Support Our Troops organization also sends K9 care packages to military dogs. Contributing to this organization on K9 Veterans Day is another great way to show your appreciation for work our military dogs do. Supplies such as dog cooling vests, K9 googles, large rubber balls, collapsible dog bowls, and grooming supplies are in high demand. Check out the K9 Soldier Treats program’s information on the Support Our Troops website at for a comprehensive list of needed items and how you can send your donation.
2. Contribute to a War Dog Fund
Both the United States War Dog Association and Support Our Troops, as well as several other military dog organizations, welcome cash donations. Donations help these organizations continue their work to honor and support war dogs and help them pay for equipment and supplies that go directly to the veteran dogs and the K9s who are currently serving in the military.
1. Adopt a War Dog
Perhaps the best way to honor a military dog on K9 Veterans Day is to give a veteran dog a forever home. Mission K9 Rescue and Save A Vet are two organizations that work to place retired military K9s for adoption. Both groups are headquartered in Texas and acquire K9 veterans from the military after their service to their country is complete. The dogs go through a series of behavioral and temperament assessments to make sure that they will be a good fit for civilian life with a family. Information about the adoption process can be found on either group’s websites at https://missionk9rescue.org and https://www.saveavet.org/
K9 Veterans Day on March 13 is a time to reflect on the service, sacrifice, and loyalty of the military dogs that are an integral part of our armed forces, past, present, and future. You can show your support and honor our K9 veterans in several different ways, ranging from visiting a war dog memorial or wearing a t-shirt to donating dog biscuits and adopting a retired military dog into your family.