Citizens of the United States have the military to thank for their protection, security, freedom, and When thinking of those who have faced conflict in overseas locations, it is personnel from the Army, Navy, and Air Force that come to mind. However, what people often forget is that many animals serve the military in a variety of ways and these animals often play a significant role. One type of animal that works with the armed forces are dogs, and these animals often work on the frontline sniffing out bombs and other explosives along with many other duties. There are even awards for these brave animals, who put the lives of others before their own safety. Recently, it was announced that the American Human top military working dog is Sergeant Yeager, an improvised explosive detection dog working alongside the Marine Corps. This dog has worked over three combat tours across Afghanistan and Iraq, and he has carried out nearly 100 combat patrols, says the Marine Corps Times.
Yeager is also competing for the grand prize title of American Hero Dog and he is one of seven dogs that is receiving a 2019 American Humane Hero Dog award. The latter is a nationwide competition that is held annually in recognition of all dogs that do amazing things. This is not the first time that Yeager has won an award, as was awarded the Purple Heart in 2012. He was given this award following an IED explosion in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. Yeager suffered serious shrapnel wounds as a result of the explosion and he lost part of his ear. However, this was not the worst consequence of the explosion, as it was this IED device that killed Sergeant Yeager’s handler, Marine Lance Corporal Abraham Tarwoe. According to the Marine Times, he was killed when the Tarwoe stepped on an IED device while he and Yeager were conducting a dismounted patrol in the Marjah district of Helmand Province.
Apparently, the bond between Yeager and his handler was unbreakable as they had worked together since they were both assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. This meant that they had become a team and developed trust in their working relationship. Following the explosion and the death of his handler, Yeager was flown back from Afghanistan to the United States, where he was treated for his injuries. Although it took many months, Yeager made a successful recovery. Since, then, Yeager has now been retired from the Marine Corps. When he was retired, Yeager was fortunate enough to find a forever home. Caroline Zuendel had become his handler, and it was her family that adopted him. The 12-year-old black Labrador Retriever is now enjoying life in retirement at his new home in North Carolina. Although his health has deteriorated a little with age, he still has a fantastic zest for life.
Zuendel decided to adopt the dog because Tarwoe’s widow did not feel able to care for the dog as she already had an infant son to care for, says News Observer. Caroline Zuendel was aware of Yeager’s situation and decided to help out by adopting him. It soon became clear to her what a sweet-natured dog he is when he went with the family to Zuendel’s husband’s hospital appointments and met new people. Similarly, when people visited the Zuendel household, he would run downstairs to greet them and then turn sideways so that they would rub him. For this reason, he has become very popular in his local community. He is also fantastic with children, especially the Zuendel children; Mariah, Mackenzie, and Simon.
While life is generally very good for Yeager now, he is beginning to experience some problems. Caroline says that he has started to slow down a lot and that he is beginning to lose his hearing. She also believes that he may still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder from his experiences serving with the Marine Corps. She admits that is hard to tell because he cannot speak, but he seems to have nightmares often. When this happens, she wakes him up and reassures him. There are still plenty of things for Yeager to look forward to, though, as he has some upcoming exciting events and travel experiences to enjoy. In October, he is flying to Hollywood where he will stay at the Beverley Hilton where the awards gala for the American Humane Hero Dog Awards will take place. The event is being filmed and will broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on October 23, 2019.
Yeager is attending this event along with six other dogs who are also recipients of the award, each for different reasons. As they have each won this honor, they are all finalists for the grand prize of American Hero Dog, which only one of them can win. This event follows a trip that Yeager is making in September to Washington D.C. There, he will receive the Medal of Courage. This is an honor awarded by American Humane, which is a national non-profit that was founded in 1877. The American Humane Hero Dog Awards are divided into seven categories, and the top dog in each of these categories is chosen by vote. Yeager was the winner in the military section, but the other six recipients are equally deserving of an award.
Leader Dog Lady is the winner of the guide/ hearing dogs category. She is a Labrador from Hamilton, Michigan. The winner of the search and rescue dog category is Piglet, a Catahoula Leopard Dog from Lancaster, California. In the therapy dogs’ category, Jeanie is the deserving winner of the award. She is a three-legged rescue dog from Louisiana whose life was transformed after she was found a home and trained to become a therapy dog. German Shepherd Alice has won the service dogs category, and she comes from Nicholasville in Kentucky. Dax from Illinois is the recipient of the award for the law enforcement/ arson dogs’ category. Finally, the winner of the shelter dogs’ category is Gus from Houston Texas. Gus was found severely injured and faced a long road to recovery.