Not every Veteran returning home is greeted with a warm welcome, and for injured Veterans like Nero, it is even more dismal. Serving in a different way than most, Nero, a 12 year old German Shepherd, worked in a Navy bomb detection unit in Iraq and is credited with saving the lives of over 3,000 service members. While most soldiers receive disability compensation for the injuries they sustained while in combat, Nero was on the path to being euthanized. But thanks to the Save-a-Vet (http://www.save-a-vet.org) program, dogs like Nero are able to evade the same fate as other injured military working dogs.
Founded by Iraq War veteran Danny Scheurer in 2007, the Save-A-Vet program works to keep military working dogs deemed unfit for adoption from being euthanized. After their time serving is over, the dogs are evaluated at The Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base to determine whether or not they are fit to be adopted.
Those who exhibit signs of PTSD or having sustained injuries during their service subsequently fail. Nero, like the 4,500 other dog who have failed these tests before him, faced two options: being euthanized, or be taken in by those who are deemed fit to handle what the government labels as “hazardous equipment.” To be considered able to handle the former working dogs, one has to have been given a security clearance, which many receive during their military service. Luckily for Nero, this is where the Save-a-Vet program stepped in.
Recently visiting Northern Illinois University, Scheurer raised awareness about the plight of military working dogs with Nero at his side. Titled “The Other Forgotten Soldier”, their presentation drew scores of students, veterans and members of the community with the help of NIU’s Military Student Services and the Disability Resource Center.
Having used military working dogs since the First World War, approximately 2,000 dogs accompany servicemembers to date, with each deployed dog saving between three and five lives a day, according to Scheurer. During the presentation he stated that he is just returning the favor by starting the Save-a-Vet program.
While the presentation succeeded in gaining support and some new volunteers, Scheurer acknowledged,
“If we don’t have to exist anymore, that’s a good thing. It means the government is doing their job.”
Save-A-Vet is currently accepting veteran applicants interested in being part of their efforts that Scheurer calls very simple, “We just give them love and care,” something that dogs who serve our nation and our soldiers deserve. Be sure to check out http://www.save-a-vet.org and learn more about the program and possibly how you can help.