Lawmakers in New York have introduced legislation that would add the state to the list of U.S. territories that celebrate K-9 Veterans Day, a national holiday to honor military and law enforcement service dogs, reported The Associated Press. Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara sponsored the bill.
"Today, police dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs and search-and-rescue dogs are hard at work: loyal, brave, dependable," Marchione told The AP. "K-9 Veterans Day is about recognizing our heroes for all that they do."
Eleven other states recognize K-9 Veterans Day, which takes place March 13, reported WRGB. The U.S. Army established its K-9 corps program on the same day in 1942.
The military has used working dogs in the field for decades. Even before 1942, canines saw action in combat zones around the world. During World War I, a Boston terrier named Stubby garnered national attention for helping Allied forces on the Western Front, reported Slate. Stubby detected mustard gas and barked warnings to entrenched doughboys. He also helped round up cornered enemy soldiers and comforted the wounded. Stubby was discharged from the Army in 1919 with the rank of private first class.
In the years since, thousands of dogs have followed in Stubby's footsteps. Now, highly trained bomb-sniffing canines search the Hemland Province in Afghanistan for improvised explosive devices. Other animals help Marines and soldiers in Iraq clear bombed-out, bullet-riddled buildings. Working dogs are now an essential part of America's fighting force.
"He's like my quiet partner," Jose Armenta, a Marine veteran and former working dog handler, said of his canine Zenit, in an interview with National Geographic. "He bridges three worlds: the person I was before Afghanistan, the one I was there, and the one I became after."