- Public interest and donations towards military working dogs have increased following news of the US military’s raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria.
- One family told Insider that “Conan,” the purported name of the dog that helped take down al-Baghdadi, deserved their care-packages and “needs the biggest bone ever as a ‘thank you.'”
- Multiple US military branches did not comment on whether the dog and its handler could accept care-packages. Government ethics rules prohibit service members and their families from soliciting gifts for their “official positions.”
- But just as civilians are able send military care-packages to troops serving overseas, military working dogs and their handlers are able to accept care-packages through non-profit organizations.
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A 10-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy from Virginia are seeking to send a car package to the military working dog that played a role in the raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria.
The dog, whose name is “Conan,” according to President Donald Trump, appeared to be a Belgian Malinois, the same breed used during the mission against the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011. The dog is reportedly named after comedian Conan O’Brien.
Julie, who works in medical device sales in Virginia, and her husband, a government contractor, said her family was always interested in adopting dogs that failed out of training academies. The family has two dogs, a cat, and fish.
“We got a vet store at our house,” Julie said to Insider.
Julie explained that she was first informed of the dog after President Donald Trump published a photo on Twitter: “My husband had sent me a screenshot of Trump’s Twitter feed,” Julie said. “I don’t follow Trump but he sent me a screenshot of the dog.”
Julie then showed the picture to her kids, 13-year-old John and 10-year-old Maddie, who said the dog “needs the biggest bone ever as a ‘thank you.'”
“The kids were just worried how he was injured, how hurt he was,” Julie said. “These people put their lives in danger, as well as this animal, for us.”
“Thank you for being so heroic and helping take down a horrible man,” John said of the US troops in a text message. “We love the name and hope that Conan meets the real comedian.”
- A US Air Force Airman and a military working dog participate in a simulated narcotic/bomb detection exercise at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, September 23, 2019.
- Airman 1st Class Kristine Legate / US Air Force / DVIDS
Multiple US military branches did not comment on whether the dog and its handler could accept care-packages. Government ethics rules prohibit service members and their families from soliciting gifts for their “official positions.”
There are some exemptions to unsolicited gifts, excluding money, for US service members. Food and drinks that are “not part of a meal;” trophies; bank loans that are already available to the public, and gifts valued at “$20 or less from one source,” are just a few exemptions from the rule.
But just as civilians are able send military care-packages to troops serving overseas, military working dogs and their handlers are also able to accept them. For over 16 years, the US War Dog Association has been sending out thousands of packages containing items like treats, toys, goggles, and dog boots.
Around 70% of the items in the non-profit organization’s care-packages are for the dogs. The remaining goods, such as hygiene items for human use, are meant for the handler. Some items, like a dog harness are specifically requested by a handler.
“We ship directly to the canine handlers or the kennel master,” Ron Aiello, the president of US War Dog Association, said to Insider. “By doing this, we know they’re getting the packages.”
“We’ve been doing this now since 2003, when we first started sending these over to troops over in Afghanistan.” Aiello added. “And all this time, we haven’t lost a package.”
Aiello explained that it was “impossible” to send care-packages directly to a specific dog, such as the one that participated in the al-Baghdadi raid, and said any donations would get sent to units that specifically request a particular item, or to general canine units.
- Callie, a search and rescue dog for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Kentucky, November 29, 2018.
- Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton / US Air National Guard / DVIDS
There are also other ways for the public to show its support for working military dogs. Roughly half of the dogs that receive training fail to meet the military’s standards and are put up for adoption. In Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas – where dogs are reared at a whelping facility, trained, and return from service – some of the aspiring canines can be fostered and adopted.
Mission K9 Rescue, a Texas-based nonprofit group that rehabilitates retiring dogs and helps reunite the them with their handlers, is one group that supports the canines. Since 2013, the group helped find homes for over 550 dogs, and reunited 300 dogs with their handlers.
“These dogs train like athletes all their lives,” Bob Bryant, the CFO of Mission K9 Rescue, said to Insider. “They are basically tireless. A Belgian Malinois is an incredible bundle of energy. They actually never stop moving unless they finally pass out and go to sleep.”
Trump hailed al-Baghdadi’s death as a US victory and praised the dog and US troops for their service during a press conference on Monday.
“He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down,” Trump said, referring to Baghdadi, who detonated an explosive vest killing himself and two children.
Trump and military officials said the dog received minor injuries in the raid. Pentagon officials on Wednesday said the dog was injured after touching some exposed electrical wires while chasing al-Baghdadi. The dog conducted over 50 combat missions during its tenure.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that because the dog was still in a combat zone, he would not be disclosing its name. Despite the public release of the dog’s photo by Trump, military officials declined to release its name due to security measures.
“We will not release the name of the dog right now,” Milley said during a press conference on Monday. “But the dog is still in theater … so we will not release just yet photos, or names of dogs, or anything else.”
Mark Hertling, a retired US Army general and CNN military analyst, theorized that disclosing the dog’s name could compromise operational security by linking it to its human handler and special operations unit.
Trump said on Thursday that the dog would visit the White House next week. Trump also appeared to confirm the dog’s reported name, Conan, with a photoshopped picture of him presenting a fake award.
“Very cute recreation, but the ‘live’ version of Conan will be leaving the Middle East for the White House sometime next week,” Trump said on Twitter.