They're man's best friend, and nowhere is that more evident than on the battlefield. Hundreds of dogs are deployed in the Middle East right now, saving soldiers everyday with their amazing ability to sniff out explosives.
When their work is done, they need new homes far away from the deserts and military compounds of Afghanistan and Iraq.
That's where a central Florida company comes in.
The tiny town of Lake Mary, just outside Orlando, is home to American K9 Detection Services, better known as "AMK9." AMK9 dogs are sent all over the world on all types of missions, and when they retire, they're looking for a few good homes.
"Jan" is one of the Contract Working Dogs (CWD) going home today with Christine Brooke, a young dog trainer who's always wanted a dog like him.
"Jan is a Belgian Malinois. It's one of those dogs I've always wanted to work with. I've always wanted to meet in person. I've always wanted to own one," Brooke says.
It's not just Jan's breed that captivates Brooke. Ever since her late brother served in Iraq, she has heard stories of the bravery of America's dogs on the front lines.
"That was one of the first things he mentioned, was the dogs. He knew I was a big dog fanatic, so he always kept me updated and let me know how they were doing," Brooke said.
Like so many of AMK9's dogs, 8-year-old Jan just retired from years of working overseas, keeping U.S. soldiers and personnel safe in Iraq and Afghanistan.
AMK9 handler and trainer Tim Broadhurst says there is no doubt Jan saved lives.
"That dog has cleared thousands of vehicles, thousands of vehicles in his lifetime and made sure they were safe to come onboard the compound," Brooke said.
Broadhurst knows first-hand why dogs like Jan are essential members of the Armed Forces. He's a Marine and a former military dog handler who was on the ground in Fallujah in 2004.
"You go overseas with him and you live life with him 24-7, and he sleeps by your bed -- and he depends on you for everything. And on top of that, he goes out there and risks his life for you," Broadhurst said.
He also knows the intense hours of training it takes to create a top-notch bomb detection dog like Jan, and like "Brian," his current K9 partner,
Jon Wertjes, the chief operating officer of AMK9, says more than 600 of their teams are deployed around the world at this time -- most of them manning checkpoints in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wertjes says it's a critical job that saves countless lives.
"We screen, the dogs screen over 2,000 vehicles a day. So it only takes one of those to be able get through with somebody that has bad intent," Wertjes said.
As the number of working dogs deployed goes up, so does the need for homes when they retire.
"They're coming back because all of our dogs come back, to be adopted out and that number will continue to grow," Wertjes said.
Christine Brooke is eager to spread the word that lots of dogs like Jan need homes, and they can get along with other animals. She has two other rescued dogs at home.
"We're hoping to raise awareness for veterans, why not help for the four-legged ones?"
AMK9 works with a national group called "Military Working Dog Adoptions" to place their dogs when they retire.
Here's their website:
To find out more about AMK9:
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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