A group of volunteers gathered in Washington, D.C., last week to pack gift boxes for military dog teams stationed overseas.
More than forty people met at the D.C. headquarters of the American Humane Association and made quick work of the more than 170 care packages they prepared for military dog teams serving on bases around the world. The packages included a number of comfort items, food, and practical tools. Everything from soup, to blankets, to dog treats, to NFL gear, to (canine) toenail trimmers were included in the boxes.
In addition to the more practical provisions, each box also included a handwritten card from an elementary school student thanking the handler and his dog for their service to the country. "Dear Dog of the United States," one card adorned with stickers and a dog treat taped to it said, "Thank you for all the things you do for us."
"P.S. Please read that note to your dog."
"Dear soldier and dog," another begins. "I saw a picture of you and your dog. I saw how you and your dog our [sic throughout, of course] such good firends. I have a firend like that. Here name is Hanna. Dear dog, I love the pictsurs. You help your owner so much. Thank you for serving."
Another card, featuring a drawing of a dog sitting under an American flag, reads "thank you for keeping us safe and fighting for our freedom."
Thursday's event represents the 38th time the Military Working Dog Team Support Association, an all-volunteer group, has sent out the care packages to the troops in the field. The program has been operating for a decade and sends out boxes four times every year. The packing events are held in a different part of the country each time and are often run out of the homes of volunteers.
The idea for the care packages came from the founders of the group, who had been scout dog handlers during the Vietnam War.
"Once they got home … they just wanted to give back to the dog teams that are currently serving," Nikki Rohrig, the group's president, said. "Just to let them know that someone is thinking about them. We're here to support them."
"They did not get this type of support when they served so they just wanted to pay support forward."
The American Humane Association became involved in the project last year after they were approached to help pay for postage on the packages. They agreed and enlisted the help of businesses large and small. The Mars corporation helped fill the box with donated products from Pedigree, Uncle Ben, and Altoids. The NFL kicked in shirts and hats. Even the small Michigan-based operation D.O.G. Bakery donated Super Bowl-themed dog treats. Everything not provided by a corporate partner was purchased using money donated to the two non-profits.
"It's a volunteer driven project," Robin Ganzert, president of the American Humane Association, said. "We were able to host volunteers in our offices. Everybody got to roll up their sleeves and do great work. I think that's really part of the spirit of America: to volunteer and help serve those who allow us to be free."
The contents of the box are changed on a regular basis based on the season and feedback from troops in the field. Next quarter's contents have already been put together and posted online. The groups have made it simple to donate to the effort either by giving directly to the charities or by purchasing items listed on the project's Amazon wishlist and shipping them directly to the Military Working Dog Team Support Association.