What it shows me is that inspite of all the craziness going on in our nation right now; as citizens, we will keep forging ahead and doing what we can to “form a more perfect union.”
K9 Arlo is a soul who went out into harms way to protect his community because he is part of a group of citizens who’ve made that their vocation. The difference is that K9 Arlo isn’t a volunteer like his human team-mates. I am grateful to everyone who has gone out of their way to support him and K9’s like him. In my opinion, it is our duty to give them everything they need to be safe and effective in this job we’ve given them: protecting humans.
Arlo, though not by choice, has also given us a window into that community. There are kind and very generous souls in the community and Arlo has introduced us to them and by so doing- has shown us some light in this tough time.
Despite the madness around them right now, K9’s will work like they do every day. There are K9’s on duty all over the globe, serving our country right now. They are looking for bombs, or drugs, or murder suspects. They don’t care about our political views. They don’t care about which cable news channel you watch. They only know that they are with their “pack” and have a job to do.
We at Spike’s K9 Fund are committed to those Dogs. They deserve our care and consideration. We have a few goals for 2021. We want to help 250 new K9’s (we often help the same dog in multiple ways, like a vest and a heat alarm, or a GPS tracker and medical cost assistance) by the end of the year, and we want to have assisted K9’s in all 50 states. We haven’t been able to crack the code in Hawaii, New Hampshire, Wyoming, and Nebraska. If you are reading this and know a K9 team in any of those states, please help us help them by spreading the word about who we are and what we do.
We sincerely do need your help. We have a small team, and we rely on volunteers and supporters to help us fill K9 needs where they see them.
Despite the troubles we are experiencing as a nation, the Dogs go to work, just like their human handlers. We have to be there for them.
Happy New Year! We at Spike’s K9 Fund hope you and yours have a happy and healthy 2021.
As for us, we have much work to do.
We have 4 separate “agility course” builds in the works right now. One in Hawaii, one in Connecticut, one in West Virginia, and another in Ohio. We have the “Spike’s School” classes getting lined up and we have over 25,000 working Dogs out there that need equipment, or medical care cost assistance, or education for them and their handlers.
In short, I’m glad we had an end to the difficult 2020 and I’m hopeful for 2021, but either way, our donors and supporters understand that our mission is important and to us, it is a duty, and we don’t sit around much.
If you feel like helping us out there are a few things you could do.
1- Share our mission. Social media, word of mouth, stickers, all of these things help us raise awareness for what we can do for the Working Dogs of America.
2- Donate. We are grateful that our current supporters have chosen to trust us with their hard-earned $. We take that commitment very seriously. If you can help us out financially, we appreciate it. If you can’t, we understand and we are grateful for any other support you can give.
3- Speak to your local law enforcement units. Tell them what we offer. Understand that some K9 teams do not want help. Most of the time this is because they don’t understand the technology behind what we offer, or they just don’t want the hassle of dealing with another group of people that wants to impose on their time. All we really ask for from the K9 teams we help is a couple of photos of the Dog, so we can show our donors.
Finally, enjoy a photo of my puppy “Gianni” and as you do, remember, these Dogs that work for our communities in all of their various capacities, are not volunteers. They deserve the best care and equipment available. Spike’s K9 Fund aims to make that happen.
One of the coolest things about being involved with Spike’s K9 Fund is that I get to meet and speak with amazing folks on the regular. Some of them are strangers, some are employees, some are volunteers and some are people that we help with our donors’ generosity.
I want to dedicate this blog to our volunteer Harlan. Harlan sent me a message a few weeks ago suggesting that we do a food drive and maybe try to do it with our local PD as a way to help the community and give the public an opportunity to interact with their local law enforcement K9 teams.
Harlan, a Vietnam Veteran who lives in Ohio, packed his truck up with non-perishables and drove down here for the event. His truck full of food made a very impressive chunk of the total haul at the end of the day.
Additionally, we had another supporter, one from Tennessee, send us $1000.00 to go to the store and buy more items for the food bank. The hits just keep coming folks.
I am eternally grateful for our generous supporters, and when I see the tangible good that comes from them, I am reminded, yet again, that in spite of the difficulties we are all experiencing right now, we are surrounded by kindness and generosity.
Here is a photo of Harlan meeting a local retired K9 ( K9 “Uno”) while at the event.
In closing, I want to say “Thank you” to all of you who support us in any fashion. Spike’s K9 Fund exists because of you. This work to care for the K9’s in our communities and those who protect our nation, can only be successful with the selfless support of you, our #spikespack.
Friday afternoon, I had a conference call with Emily, the Director of Operations, and Paige, the Marketing and Social Media specialist. We were talking about how we were going to use the anniversary of Spike’s death, as an attempt at raising funds for our mission. I created Spike’s K9 Fund because of him and what he meant and still means to me. We were going to call the event “Spike’s hike” and our friend Joey Nobody, made this badass logo for us:
As the conversation developed, I was asked questions like: “how far did you walk with Spike on your last mission?” Now, that question is an innocent one; a question to help the ladies figure out the best way to market that information, you know, match the distance we walked that December 2006 night in the suburbs of Ramadi, with the hike I was planning on the 23rd of December, 2020. When they asked that question, I was immediately transported back to the night Spike died. There is no way they could have understood what that was like for me. I responded very harshly. Then Emily asked me; “how far did you carry Spike?” and that sent me into a tailspin. First off, I wasn’t some badass K9 handler who “carries” his dog. Spike carried me. He carried me through close to 45 missions before that last one- the last time we worked together. When I did carry him that night, he was bleeding from a gunshot wound from a bullet I’d delivered to the human he had been sent to bite, by me, and that bullet went through the human and into Spike, and I was running, with him on my shoulder and I felt his last breath. I felt his soul leave. I’m no tough guy writing this, I’m a 53-year-old man with tears in his eyes. Anyway, I carried his 62lb body with me for about 600 meters to the one building we’d secured and I desperately laid Spike’s body in front of a very good Air Force PJ. I remember the PJ looking at me and then shining his headlamp on Spike’s body and he took a deep breath and looked me in the eye and said: “Jimmy, I can’t do anything to save Spike at this point.” So when Emily and Paige were both in high school, I was sitting on the dusty, bloody floor of a building in Western Iraq holding my best friend, a dead friend with a bullet-hole I’d put in him.
At this point in the conversation with Emily and Paige, I was unable to participate in any positive way. I abruptly left the meeting and went about trying to get my shit together.
My point here is that this mission of ours is important. It isn’t a mission where nobody has skin in the game. For me, and the handlers we help, this shit is very real and the consequences for failure can often mean the death of our best friend or others on our team. These Dogs are not volunteers. I want to repeat that, these working K9’s are NOT volunteers. We ask these dogs to do things that we don’t want to do ourselves, on behalf of other humans. They deserve our best care. Additionally, I hope that my inability to deal with the seemingly innocent questions that Emily and Paige were asking, helps others understand how nefarious this stuff can be to our souls. I’ve been through countless hours of counseling, a plethora of pharmaceuticals, and a recent life-changing experience with plant medicines, and that stuff about Spike is something that still hurts, deeply. I didn’t purposely shoot Spike. I was shooting the man who was holding him down and biting him (we saw human bite-marks in Spike when we did the autopsy). I remember going back on the helicopter, feeling his body get cold in my lap. I remember standing in the debrief and trying to keep my composure as I discussed my part in the mission that night. I remember going back to Spike’s kennel and seeing him with the American Flag draped over his body. I remember writing Pablo Neruda’s Poem “It means shadows” on his kennel door.
In spite of the obvious pain, I’m glad I remember those things, because it helps me stay motivated to help as many dogs like Spike as I can. I’ve assembled an amazing team of employees and volunteers from all over the country. Their hearts are in it, just like mine. Spike was a driven soul, and I want our organization to emulate that drive.
I want to publicly apologize to Emily and Paige, the real professionals that hold this organization together. They didn’t ask to see me get angry. They weren’t trying to dig things up that would cause me pain, they were just trying to do their jobs. I love them and am grateful for their hard work and love.
They should both get pay raises for having to work for an emotional guy like me.
In closing, on 23 December 2020 at 0900 EST, I will be doing a 5k walk with a backpack holding the ashes of Spike, Toby, Falco, and Remco. The Dogs I worked with that were killed in combat. They are represented by the stars in our logo. I will have my dog Mina and my new puppy Gianni with me and I will “go live” on the Spike’s K9 Fund Instagram account. Hope you join me.
Last Thursday we executed our first “Spike’s School” with a great crew of Officers and K9’s from the Portsmouth, VA Police Department. We hired the Crystal Clear K9, husband and wife team (I have no idea how they do it, my wife would kill me if we worked together) as trainers. We had such a good day in spite of the fact that we had never done anything like this.
After the nervousness wore off, and we focused on why we were all there; the dogs, everything went smoothly. I feel comfortable calling our first Spike’s School a success. We had a good debrief and we all agreed that more training days would be better.
I was a bit concerned about mixing civilian trainers with Law Enforcement because I worried that the Cops might not respect the civilians in the same way that they would another cop. Turns out it was not a problem at all. The Officers quickly saw that the trainers were pros and that they had things they could teach them.
I remember a time when we had these discussions in the NSW community. We began hiring professional competitive shooters to help us with our speed and efficiency on our guns. We hired a man named Jerry Barnhart. I remember the first thing he said after he introduced himself. He said; “I have never been in a real gunfight, but I train every day to be faster and more accurate and I believe that what I have learned will help you in a gunfight.” He was correct. His training helped us raise our game. Additionally, we, after MUCH trepidation, began to hire civilian skydivers to help us raise our game in that arena. Steve and Sara Curtis and their crew, helped raise our parachute insertion abilities to a much higher and safer level. It really makes sense if you step back and consider that these civilians, like Crystal Clear K9, have dedicated their lives to this skill, whether it be shooting or skydiving or K9 training, it is all those folks do, every day. In the Special Operations world, we had other things we had to concentrate on, so it made total sense to bring in “subject matter experts” to help us in specific areas. I feel like this holds true in the K9 world as well.
Our next Spike’s School class is scheduled for 17 December 2020 in Tacoma Washington. The highly regarded Evan Nolte Cross will teach emergency medicine techniques to the Tacoma PD K9 Unit. Evan is a military medic who has spent much time in the Special Operations world working on healthy and wounded K9’s. This class is especially potent because the Tacoma PD lost a K9 in August of this year. When I started Spike’s K9 Fund, I just wanted to “help the Dogs” and I wasn’t sure how to do that most effectively. As we have matured as an organization, I have come to see that education is the #1 way to help/save these Dogs.
I sincerely appreciate the hard work of our employees, volunteers and supporters as we move into this new form of K9 advocacy.
I am thankful that I am a veteran. I am thankful that where I come from (the special operations community), words mean something. I’m thankful that I lived in a world where we had “skin in the game” and we knew that the consequences, were we to not work hard and prepare, were severe.
I’m thankful that my leaders, all flawed humans like me, gave a damn about us and shared in our victories as well as our failures.
I’m thankful that we gave our best efforts when it counted. We relied on one-another and cared for each other in horrific circumstances on the battlefield, and in my personal case, on the battlefield waiting for me here at home.
I’m thankful for the two Vets who came to visit me in my hospital room after I was severely wounded in combat, and after I asked them who they were, they told me: We are Vietnam Veterans and we are here to make sure you are getting treated better than we were treated when we came home.
I’m thankful that my immediate military leadership was ready to do whatever it took to give us the tools we needed to be successful in combat, even if our civilian leadership didn’t grasp the need to define what the “success” we were working for, was.
I’m thankful that I was fortunate to be a part of an organization that actually, truly, believed in an America where “all men are created equal” even if some of our fellow citizens, and politicians in particular, disagreed.
I’m thankful I never had to play “dress-up” and run around my town with my assault rifle, yelling at my fellow citizens to feel like I was a warrior. I’m thankful that I made it through many complicated vetting processes’ to get into a special mission unit where we could confront evil face to face, not in some tv series, movie, or video game.
I’m thankful that my fellow citizens reach out and thank me and ask me if I need help as I, like many of my fellow service-members, struggle at times, adjusting to a different life where the values seem to be different and where the individual is king, not the team, where the individual good seems to outrank the collective good.
I’m thankful for the First Amendment of the Constitution that allows me to say what I want.
It is my hope on this Thanksgiving that our national leadership becomes strong like the team I served with in combat. We were held to account for our actions and decisions. We were held to account by our enemies and more importantly, ourselves. We were Thankful to stand in the breach for America.
This is a photo taken of a painting that was drawn on a stone wall in Egypt over 4000 years ago.
Dogs have been helping humans for a very long time.
As a working k9 advocacy group, we are constantly working on ways to improve our efforts at helping the K9’s who, not because they volunteered but because we decided they have the qualities that will best serve us, take care of our communities and country in difficult and sometimes very violent situations.
A few months ago, we took part in a podcast with some fellows who have a good view of the working K9 community, and I asked them: “what are we missing? Where do we need to fill a gap in the care of these K9’s that isn’t being addressed?” Their response was simple and quick: “Training.”
After mulling it over, and I mean really thinking about it, we decided that we, with the resources provided by our donors, would start to fund classes for handlers and their Dogs.
The Dog’s safety and health are almost entirely in the hands of the human that they are attached to. It makes sense that the education of the human part of the K9 team is a priority. I know I made huge mistakes as a handler, to include killing Spike, the namesake of our non-profit, in a “shoot-through.”
We presently have two classes on the books and we will use these as “test-runs” of sorts.
The first one is a basic “day with a trainer” here in Portsmouth Virginia. We will be paying the team from Crystal Clear Canine, a group I have worked with extensively, to come to the department and interact with the various handlers and K9’s to try to find solutions for what they see as their issues or worries, you know, the places in their work where they don’t have complete confidence that the K9 will succeed.
The second class will be in Tacoma, Washington. It will be a class on K9 emergency medical care. It will be taught by a young man I have great respect for and who has much experience in that tough environment; Evan Nolte Cross. The Tacoma PD lost a K9 recently in a shooting incident and we are keen to fund this class to people who see the value in being trained for the worst-case scenarios.
We will continue to plan more class events, and we will do so with great care to provide these classes for people who are genuinely invested in what we are offering. We will vet each and every instructor and student. If we think they are not interested in the classes for the right reasons, we will not select them. I intend to approach this “vetting process” in a way similar to what I went through in the military. This is important for two reasons. The first is that we are being trusted by our donors to spend their hard-won $ in the most effective ways. The second, and this may sting a bit for some, I have seen K9 handlers in the military and law enforcement who are lazy and should probably be doing something else with their lives. Additionally, the humans who “think” they are the shit, and who spend a large amount of their time actually talking shit, instead of working their Dogs, are people we will avoid; be they instructors or potential students. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a member of the “shit-talker-brigade” and for that reason, I really hate it. Seems the best place to interact with that specific crew is on Facebook where nobody gets punched in the mouth for being disrespectful.
We take this work very seriously. These Dogs have been helping us solve human problems for a very long time.
We will do everything we can to take care of them.
This past weekend, the fine folks at Crossfit Chesapeake helped us with their fourth annual “Kipping for K9’s.”
The event raised over $4,400.00 for our mission.
As I explained before each heat of the 20 minute workout- We at Spike’s cannot conduct our mission without the efforts of other people. People like those cross-fitters, who get up early on a Saturday morning to come do a workout that kicks their ass, and all for the cause of helping the working Dogs.
Dogs serve our communities and we serve them. Pretty simple. Seeing the extra-curricular efforts of members of the Chesapeake community as they spent their precious weekend hours doing what they can for the Dogs, is a great reminder that we are in this together and I am very grateful for the kindness and generosity of the people who support our mission to care for these amazing animals.
This is a photo of my puppy Gianni. What a blessing he is; during this madness, this election insanity, and all of the other loud confusing chunks of life that we are all faced with during this period of American history, he and his simple puppy needs are a refocusing for my psyche. See Gianni is concerned primarily with life in the present moment, and when I try to copy his simple approach, I am much more likely to have a good day.
I’ll finish this overly-simple blogpost with a poem by Lorca-
“I’ll be saying goodbye and the crossroads, heading off down that road through my soul.
I’ll arouse reminiscences, stir-up mean hours, I’ll arrive at the garden spot in my song, my bright song, and I’ll start into shiver and shake like the Morning- Star.”
Here’s to the road through our soul-
Gianni travels that road quite well, and he is a 13 week old puppy.