Dogs accomplish much more than chasing down jihadists as Conan, the Belgian Malinois, did recently. They can be heroes like Marine Dog Bass, an MWD who has served in the Marine Corps for six years and sniffs out bombs, tracks bad guys, and does a variety of other tasks. Then, there is Lt Cmdr Shetland, the newest addition to the teaching staff at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD.
Marine Dog Bass, a Military Working Dog
Bass received the Medal of Bravery for his work with the Marine Corps in a Washington, DC ceremony on November 14, 2019. His medal was the first of its kind.
“On Thursday, Bass was awarded the Medal of Bravery on Capitol Hill for his work with the Marines. The award, the first of its kind, was issued by Angels Without Wings, a nonprofit aiming to formally acknowledge valor of working animals at home and abroad. The Medal of Bravery was inspired by the Dickin Medal, a British award introduced in WWII to honor brave animals who served in combat…
…Bass was joined Thursday by Bucca, a dog that served with the New York City Fire Department. Bucca also received the Medal of Bravery and six posthumous medals were awarded to Cher Ami, a pigeon [WWI]; Chips, a dog, and GI Joe, a pigeon [WWII]; Sgt. Reckless, a horse [Korean War]; Stormy, a dog [Vietnam War], and Lucca, a dog [Iraq and Afghanistan wars].”
Shetland, a Facility dog/instructor
But as badass as Marine Dog Bass really is, there’s another kind of dog apart from the kind used on the battlefield: a facility dog called Lt Cmdr Shetland. Yes, military dogs tend to receive ranks, just like people, and they can even be demoted for bad behavior.
There are Service dogs, which aren’t supposed to be petted, and there are Therapy dogs, who get lots of pets. But Shetland is not there just to give hugs and wag his tail- he’s there to teach medical personnel about the importance of dogs as a ‘clinical instructor in the Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology at USUHS.’
“Our students are going to work with therapy dogs in their careers, and they need to understand what (the dogs) can do and what they can’t do.” retired Col. Lisa Moores, USUHS associate dean for assessment and professional development
“When you walk through pretty much any military treatment facility, you see therapy dogs walking around in clinics, in the hospitals, even in the ICUs,” said Moores. Dogs also play a key role in helping returning service members with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Students need to learn who “the right patient is for a dog, or some other therapy animal,” she said. “And by having Shetland here, we can incorporate that into the curriculum so it’s another tool the students know they have for their patients someday.”
The USHUS facility is on the campus of Walter Reed Hospital. Walter Reed has seven dogs at their end of the hospital, but Shetland gets to stay at the USHUS all the time. And the students love having him around. Because he acts as both a service dog and a therapy dog, he can be petted…which lowers blood pressure, and brings a calming effect in times of stress.
“That dog has to work in all different environments with people who are under pressure. It can work for multiple handlers, it can go and visit people, can go visit hospital patients, can knock over bowling pins to entertain or spend time in bed with a child.” Valerie Cramer, manager of America’s VetDogs service dog program
Working dogs, and service or therapy dogs- they are now an integral part of the US military both on and off the battlefield. They are saving lives in all “theaters” of war.
Featured photo: Left- Bass and his handler, SSgt Alex Schnell; R- Shetland saluting Navy Capt. (Dr.) Sean Hussey after his commissioning.