Dogs play an important role protecting U.S. and coalition forces, and when the time comes for their retirement, these military working dogs (MWD) and contract working dogs (CWD) often require medical care and need a permanent owner.
That’s where Mission K9 Rescue comes in. Founded in fall 2013, the Houston-based nonprofit was motivated by the number of dogs “waiting overseas to be reunited with their handlers, as well as contract working dogs that were wasting away in overseas kennels, with no way to come home,” said Bob Bryant, Mission K9 Rescue’s chief financial officer.
“We knew that we could make it better for them and possessed some unique skills to ramp the work up,” Bryant added.
According to its website, Mission K9 Rescue has five objectives: rescue (dogs that are overseas or in a poor stateside environment), reunite (designated handlers always get first preference), rehome (pairing a dog with someone other than a handler), rehabilitate (from post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues) and repair (funding for medical bills). In addition to MWD and CWD dogs, Mission K9 Rescue also assists police and prison K9 dogs.
For a dog that has a former handler who wants to adopt, “there is no downtime,” explained Bryant. The dog is transported and reunited directly with that person.
Dogs not taken by their handlers are brought to the organization’s Veteran K9 Ranch for a veterinarian checkup and any necessary medical care. Once a dog is cleared, it is assigned to a kennel space, and the dogs “are rotated in and out of the ranch house, where they learn to be pets, are potty-trained if needed and given lots of love by the ranch staff,” said Bryant.
“We review adoption applications for each dog and place them with the best individuals or families for that particular dog,” he added. “The adopters visit the ranch in many cases to meet the dogs and take them home if they are a fit. We transport others to their new homes as well.”
To date, Bryant says Mission K9 Rescue has rescued more than 500 working dogs, reunited 270-plus dogs with former handlers and covered the veterinary care for thousands of canines. Kristen Maurer, Mission K9 Rescue’s president, has vivid memories of one in particular: Rhino, who served in Syria performing mine-detection operations.
“He was a very special and skilled detection dog, and the Department of State wanted us to adopt [him out] to someone that had followed his career, if possible,” she recalled.
After Rhino completed needed veterinary care and rehabilitation, Mission K9 Rescue received an application from what Maurer describes as “the perfect adopter” — Rhino’s kennel master from their base in Syria.
“It was a perfect match and a wonderful reunion,” she said.