Vets of a different sort
If You Go
What: Veterans Day ceremony
Where: Freedom Park, Edwards
When: 4 p.m. Tuesday
Information: The Freedom Park Memorial Committee and VFW Post 10721 will be conducting its 8th annual ceremony in honor of all Veterans of the Armed Forces who have served our country, those from Eagle County who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and those on active duty serving their country at this time.
EDWARDS — Haris did stuff during the War on Terror he couldn’t talk about, even if he could talk.
Haris, a military working dog, is the fourth retired military dog adopted by Dr. Randel and Shelli Patty, of Edwards. Randel, an Air Force Vietnam veteran, and his wife, Shelli, have been adopting veteran dogs since President Bill Clinton passed a law authorizing service dog adoption.
“They are very special animals and they do so much for the military, so we want them to have a good retirement,” Shelli said. “They go everywhere with us. Our grandkids love them. They are so loyal, giving and smart.”
Haris, a 13-year-old German shepherd, retired two years ago from the Air Force. Most summer Sundays you’ll find Haris at the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show, resplendent in his Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses. Most evenings, he’s at the Arrowhead lift playing with Randel and Shelli.
Quite a change from sniffing out bombs and drugs during multiple deployments in Iraq. Most of his Iraq missions were classified, as were the 20 Secret Service missions.
Again, even if Haris could talk, he couldn’t talk about that.
Neither could the Patty’s other three: Military Working Dog Dutch (died at 13), MWD Bony (died at 12) and MWD Nick (died at 12). MWD Haris is 14. They’re all German shepherds and are trained patrol and explosive detection dogs.
The military calculates that the average MWD like Haris saves more than 150 lives during their service.
The dogs and their handlers are so good at bomb detection, they become primary targets of the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. military keeps an estimated 2,300 working dogs most of the time. Besides bombs, drugs and other explosives, the dogs can also smell fear.
“People see a dog and don’t want to mess with it,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Mier, a military working dog trainer who has deployed to Southwest Asia three times as a handler twice to Saudi Arabia and once to Qatar. “A dog creates a strong psychological deterrent.”
Most U.S. military working dogs are German and Dutch shepherds, like Haris.
The Romans put razor-sharp collars around their dogs, and then sent them into the enemy’s ranks to bite and cut their foes. The U.S. military has used working dogs since the Revolutionary War, initially as pack animals, and later for more advanced uses, such as killing rats in the trenches during World War I.
During World War II, the U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 specially trained canines, most as sentries, but others as scouts, messengers and mine detectors.
Today, Haris and other working dogs serve with U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as patrol dogs and explosives and drug detectors. The dogs can reach a 98 percent success rate in bomb detection.
MWDs like Haris are also what the military likes to call “a force multiplier.”
“It is very intimidating to see a German shepherd like Haris barking, coming full speed and ready to chomp down at any second,” Mier said.
How Haris came home
Haris spent the last several years of his service working with his handler Air Force Staff Sgt. Jarvis Beauchamp, and most dogs go with their handlers when they retire. However, Beauchamp could not adopt Haris; the Air Force deployed him elsewhere.
As soon as the Pattys heard Haris’ handler could not adopt him, they were in constant communication with the Air Force and kennels. They waited several months for Haris’ disposition testing and paperwork to be complete and they drove to Tampa to get him.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.