Some of the nation’s finest canine soldiers are born and bred at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland as part of the Military Working Dog Breeding Program – first launched in 1998 with 100 puppies per year bred on base.
“The most important thing they do is explosive sniffing. So what this dog will do, this is Cecily, what she’ll do when she’s an adult is help sniff for bombs and IED’s and tell our troops where they are and keep them safe,” said Stewart Hillard, Breeding Program Manager.
When the dogs are about 8-weeks-old, they go to foster families to learn social skills. The foster volunteers play an important role in making sure the dogs are good with people.
“The fosters come in because the best place for a dog like Cecily to grow up isn’t in a kennel. It’s in a home with children and adults and going to baseball games and seeing all kinds of things out in the world,”
It’s a fosters job to care for a puppy until they’re 7-months-old. At that point they’re returned to the base to start serious training.
Paulette Cowey has volunteered with the program for 10 years, having cared for 14 dogs. She said it’s difficult to say goodbye to the dogs but also said it’s worth it because it’s her way of contributing to the military’s efforts.
“I’ve had family that’s been in the service and I feel like I’m honoring them and (doing this) in memory for them,” she said.
The MWD program provides all food, equipment and medical expenses for foster parents. Fosters are required to take the dogs for medical appointments and training classes once a month.
For more information on how to becoming a Military Working Dog Foster, you can call 210-872-2059 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.