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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Shaggy Dog Story

The shaggy dog in question is Rocky, a Belgian Malinois. OK, shaggy may be a bit of an overstatement, but the rest of this story is the truth. Rocky was in Afghanistan, employed by the US Army as a land mine detection dog. His job was to locate IED’s before a soldier found one with a boot and his longevity speaks to his ability.
Unfortunately, Rocky developed glaucoma and suffered a detached retina in one eye. As a result, the Army “retired” him from the force. But there was a rub: military working dogs are considered equipment and, as such, do not enjoy a free ride back to the states when their service is complete. As a matter of fact, the military has the option of putting dogs down that fall into this category.
CDH International is a world-wide, self-funded charity ( Among it’s many efforts is bringing dogs like Rocky back home. This is anything but an easy chore due to endless red tape, bureaucratic “not-my-job” clerks, and other obstacles. Finding airlift outside of military craft usually entails large sums of money for chartering and “handling charges” (others might refer to this as extortion, bribery, and so on).
In this particular case, CDH reached out to the Puppy Rescue Mission (, another charitable effort to reunite soldiers with the many strays they had adopted while serving in the war zones. Chandi (from CDH) and Michelle (from PRM) collaborated in getting Rocky to Los Angeles last week.
In the meantime, they had posted his photo on Facebook in the hopes of finding him a “forever home”. This posting was seen by Jason, a retired Sheriff’s deputy in Northern California. Jason was a canine officer and paired with another Malinois also named Rocky. In quick succession, Jason was involved in two events involving an armed suspect. One had a knife and the other a handgun. Rocky was instrumental in minimizing the harm to his handler, but Jason was medically retired after the shooting.
Rocky, on the other hand was still available for duty. Normally, when a canine retires his handler is able to purchase the dog for a dollar. In this case, Jason would have had to pony up $3500 and having just lost his job could not spare the funds. Needless to say, Jason quickly responded to the post and offered to adopt the “new” Rocky. 
Last Tuesday I received a call from Michelle. I am a volunteer pilot for Pilots n Paws ( and she found my bio on their website. Since I am in Northern California, too, she thought that I might be able to help in getting Rocky from LA to NorCal. Having a Malinois myself, I was all too happy to assist, but didn’t have the availability to go all the way to LA to pick him up. Mike, another Pilots n Paws volunteer pilot, offered to pick Rocky up and deliver him to San Luis Obispo, on the central California coast.. In the meantime, Jason would drive to my airport and we would fly down to San Luis to make the exchange.
So last Friday that is exactly what happened. Jason and I were waiting on the ramp at the San Luis Obispo Jet Center when Mike, his daughter, and Rocky arrived. The meet and greet was one of those “goose-bump” moments. The “new” Rocky was almost a twin to Jason’s ex-partner and I thought for sure that Jason would begin to cry when they met.
The flight back was conducted with Jason and Rocky occupying the back seats. You see, Rocky, as most others of his breed, is what we call high energy. That means they can get into mischief in a New York minute and the last thing I needed to explain to my airplane partner was the chewed up back seats. All went well, though, and we landed without any interior damage.
As I write this, Rocky is settling into his new home with Jason and his family. The end? Maybe, if we include the happily-ever-after part, but that’s not today’s point. You see, I’ve often been critical of the time wasted on social networking, but now I’m not so sure.
My story brought six principals together. Five folks and one dog that knew nothing of the others until cyberspace united them for one common cause. And now those lives have been forever changed. And that is nothing to sneeze at.
I guess that since the beginning of time there were those that under-appreciated the true value of the latest and greatest invention of the day. So why be surprised that the social network is no different? While many idly text and tweet while conjuring up only the simplest, most menial thoughts, others see the possibility of unfettered communication and use it to advance noble causes that otherwise would fall by the wayside. Take the Arab Spring, for instance. Or Rocky.
I’ve received some comments as of late regarding a recent post in which I lamented how people have evolved little over the past 500 years, or so. Maybe I was too hard on mankind. Maybe there is hope for a world where wealth is invested in causes far beyond personal gain and political differences give way to a common interest in making our world a better place. Rocky and his many advocates sure made a believer out of me.
(And should you be as outraged as I in learning of the fate in store for retired canine forces abroad, let your representatives know about it.)


Terri H. Weisser said...

Thank you so much for your part in Rocky's miracle story. I am a member of the Advisory Group for The Puppy Rescue Mission and just want you to know how valued is your contribution to this success. We truly hope Rocky and Jason have a "happily ever after" and wish you all the best on your next Pilots N Paws adventure.

Anna Maria said...

Thank you so much for helping reunite Rocky with his new family and for sharing this amazing story. I am the founder of Puppy Rescue Mission and we truly could not do what we do without amazing volunteers like yourself. Wishing you all the best.

Anna Maria

Carin Ouimette said...

As a friend and supporter of Puppy Rescue Mission I can tell you that you are now a part of the PRM family and a big part of another PRM miracle! Thank you so much for helping Rocky and Jason!

G. Bruce Hedlund said...

Thank you all for your high praise and inclusion into your PRM family. Please consider me available should a need for my services arise.