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Military Working Dogs Saving Soldiers' Lives

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 29, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

RICH LOWRY, GUEST HOST: Thousands of American men and women are spending the holidays in a war zone half a world away from home. Ainsley Earhardt takes a look at some of the four-legged soldiers who are fighting alongside them and what you can do to help them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to protecting our freedoms here in the United States, we usually think of the brave men and women serving in our armed forces. But some of the most unheralded members of the fighting force are its 2,300 military working dogs.

(on camera) I'm at Lackland Air Force Base here in San Antonio, Texas. If you enlist in the Air Force, this is where you'll come for your initial basic training. But it's not just the airmen that are being trained here. It's also the Department of Defense military working dogs, like Pearl.

Come here, girl. Good girl.

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CAPT. DAVID STAMPER, 341ST TRAINING SQUADRON: The mission of the 341st Training Squadron is to provide trained military working dogs, trained and used in explosive and drug detection, patrol and specialized mission functions for the Department of Defense and other government agencies.

STEWART HILLARD, PH.D., CHIEF OF MWD PROCUREMENT: The dog has 120 days from the time that it enters the course to graduate in both detection and patrol. At the end of the course, the dog is, what we say, certified for these tasks, meaning he's passed a performance test showing that he is fully trained and that he can carry out explosives detection or drug detection and patrol.

EARHARDT: Along with their handlers, these dogs are deployed from every branch of service wherever duty calls, helping guard our military bases and protecting our troops.

HILLARD: Trained military working dogs are, many people argue, the single most effective countermeasure against IEDs. And IEDs, of course, are the single most deadly weapon.

They search for and locate explosives, either explosives that are being stored or explosives that are being fashioned into explosive devices, or explosives that are put in place as improvised explosive devices to wound and kill our folks.

So what the dogs do is they tell us that they're there, and then the dog teams are withdrawn and EOD folks go in and take care of the explosives.

SGT. FIRST CLASS CAREY FORD, MWD INSTRUCTOR: They're the first line of defense. We use these dogs, again, in all aspects of the program. We assist battlefield commanders in their mission, and these dogs have saved countless lives from now until World War I, World War II, since the inception of the dogs being used.

EARHARDT (voiceover): Military working dogs have been keeping our soldiers safe for more than 60 years. Ken Shepherd is a World War II veteran.

KEN SHEPHERD, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: I was -- joined the Marine Corps in 19 -- July 1942, and I was in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

EARHARDT (on camera): And you were part of the first platoon in the Marines...

SHEPHERD: I was in the first Marine war dog platoon in World War II.

EARHARDT: Tell me about your dog.

SHEPHERD: Well, he was Sparky. He was a red -- red Doberman, and he was sharp. They were good on the trails when we went out on patrols at night or during the day.

EARHARDT: And do you feel like Sparky was responsible for saving your life?

SHEPHERD: Yes.

EARHARDT: Do you think you're standing here talking to me because of Sparky?

SHEPHERD: Yes. They came crawling up one night. And he came right up on a little hill right by us, and Sparky alerted. And my buddy threw a grenade down over the bank and got him.

EARHARDT (voice-over): And just like their two-legged counterparts, after years of honorably protecting the U.S. and keeping us all safe from harm's way, their service comes to an end, too, and they go back to the civilian world.

HILLARD: Like any other organism, you know, they get old. They have to be -- they have to be retired. They've reached the end of their working days, and they've got to go find, you know, a rug to lie on and some nice place to live. And many of these dogs are highly adoptable. They can make wonderful pets.

EARHARDT: But finding suitable homes for these four-legged heroes isn't always as easy as it seems. In 2000, Congress passed a law enabling military working dogs to be adopted by former handlers, law-enforcement agencies and civilian families.

Rodney Sparkoiwich works for the Department of Defense as the military working dog adoption coordinator. It's his job to find good homes for these retired service dogs.

RODNEY SPARKOIWICH, ADOPTION DEPOSITION COORDINATOR: The vast majority of the dogs that we have, they have no training, so all they know is, "Yay," life is a game. So people have to start there. They don't know about living in a house. They don't understand how the world is very different. It takes 60 to 90 days to see the real dog, until they begin to understand, this is normal. Rest, relax.

• Click here to learn more on dog adoption from Lackland Air Force Base

EARHARDT: After learning to adjust to civilian life, these dogs prove to be great additions to any home. They just need to be given a chance.

Debbie Kandoll's husband is a member of the armed services, and she jumped at a chance to take one of these dogs into her house.

DEBBIE KANDOLL, ADOPTED MILITARY SERVICE DOG: This is NWB Benny Bravo 163. He's a retired narcotics detection and patrol dog, and he served in the United States Air Force for 10 years.

My husband had deployed to Iraq, and I wanted to do more than keep the home fires burning. And so I got the idea, after finding out that military working dogs could be adopted, that I wanted to give a home to a canine hero, because these dogs do so much for our troops and our soldiers.

EARHARDT: Inspired after adopting Benny, Debbie made it her mission to find good homes for every retired military working dog.

KANDOLL: I decided that maybe I could help people work through the process of adopting military working dogs by putting my experience on a Web site. And on that Web site you will not only find a host of military working dog adoption stories, as chronicled by the folks that adopted them, but you'll also find a step-by-step guide telling you how to adopt a military working dog.

EARHARDT: But Benny isn't the only success story. Other canine heroes have found loving homes, as well. Debbie Aguillon adopted Cesar nine months ago.

DEBBIE AGUILLON, ADOPTED CESAR FROM LACKLAND: It's been absolutely wonderful. Initially when we adopted him it was -- we have a Rottweiler at home and we wanted to adopt another one, and we thought about -- we looked at the Lackland Web page and saw the military adoption program. Knowing that he was a military working dog and had never really socialized with other dogs. I wasn't sure how that was going to work out, but it's -- it's been -- it's been wonderful.

EARHARDT: Stories of these courageous dogs also inspired J.T. Gabriel to give another retired military working dog a home.

J.T. GABRIEL, WWW.K9SOLDIERS.COM: I happened to ask the kennel master at Bowling one day if he had any of the military dogs up for adoption. He said, "As a Matter of fact, we do," and he sent me a picture of Ben. And I feel in love immediately, just from the picture.

• Click here to learn more on dog adoption from K9 Soldiers

KANDOLL: These dogs are amazing, not only while they're serving our country, but even in retirement. I've never had such a devoted animal as my Benny.

GABRIEL: I absolutely love this country, and I love what our young men and women and also, by extension, these dogs do for the freedom. I know that I can wake up in peace every day because there are men and women and dogs putting their lives on the line every day for me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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