Recently I was published in the Yale student magazine “Light and Truth.”
I quite enjoy poetry. It is tough to find good poetry that talks about Dogs or where the poet writes as if they understand Dogs at all.
This is a good one by Weldon Kees. It is an old one as well:
I must express my gratitude to our supporters.
Yesterday, Emily, the intrepid Director of Operations, cc’d me on an order for five heat alarm systems from Ace K9 for K9 teams in several states.
That order represents several thousand dollars or many donations from many people. The K9’s that receive the heat alarm system now have a different kind of armor, armor against the #1 killer of Police K9’s: Heat.
Mechanical failure of a Police Vehicle is not uncommon, and a K9 can perish in a few minutes in a hot car.
When we started Spike’s K9 Fund, I had no idea what the real needs were, but when I talked to people in the know, I was shocked at the number of dogs killed by heat. Because of you, our supporters, we can help K9’s with these essential heat alarm systems and other items, like ballistic protection or GPS trackers, or medical cost assistance. Now, we are helping to educate handlers in emergency medical care and further beneficial training for their K9’s as well.
So THANK YOU to our supporters and Thank you to the K9’s out there doing work to protect our communities and us.
Hello supporters. I hope you and yours are healthy and relatively sane as we continue to navigate all of the craziness of covid and politics.
I want to explain “Spike’s School” to spread the word and get the ball rolling in an organic fashion.
The idea behind Spike’s School came to us after we assessed our previous five years of Working K9 advocacy. We found that although we can provide equipment and medical care cost assistance, we weren’t reaching enough of the working K9 population. The most significant factor in caring for an active/retired K9 is the human making decisions about how the Dog lives and works. We believe that helping K9 handlers better understand their K9 and care for them is probably more important than the gear we provide and could most likely diminish medical care cost assistance.
At this point, we’ve held two classes. One, a “clean up shot” where we brought in a professional civilian training team to get a new set of eyes on a Police K9 Unit’s Dogs and help them find solutions to lingering issues, and the second was a K9 EMT course. We also provided the proper LEO first aid kit that they learned to use in the class through our donor’s generosity.
As I have become more familiar with the Law Enforcement community, I can see how over-tasked and under-resourced they are.
Spike’s School’s vision is for the word to get out via social media or word of mouth to let others know what we offer. The classes we intend to provide are K9 EMT/care courses, K9 Obedience and tune-up (another set of eyes), Professional Decoying, Search and Rescue solutions, tracking solutions, and at a later date, K9 and Tactical Team Integration.
I am keen to work with trainers I am familiar with, specifically those with an eye to modern K9 training where compulsion is not the lead modality. I am also keen on honesty between the trainers we hire and the recipients of their experience. To be clear, based on my experience with the K9 world, some trainers and vendors are not honest about the K9’s they are helping with because they need to make $. The same is true of trainers who see a human who is not a good fit for K9. We have all seen how these situations occur and work themselves out in ugly ways. K9’s who are not genetically wired for the worst-case scenario in police work or search and rescue can endanger the lives of their team. The same is true for the humans tasked with piloting a K9 under challenging situations.
The bottom line is, our donors are paying for the training. We don’t need the students in Spike’s School to go away with a warm and unrealistic feeling about their capabilities. We need them to go out with an experience in the reality of their abilities. We have all seen or (in my case) been people who write checks with their words that they can’t cash with their actions on the day when things go sideways.
So, if you are a handler and you feel like you need training, please send us an email at email@example.com and let us know your specific need(s). Once your request is approved, we will ask you for assistance in finding a venue to host the training and finding other qualified teams to participate. Once we publicize the course, it will be open to any handler that meets the requirements. We will vet every applicant to ensure that our donors’ investment in our mission is respected correctly.
Know that we are interested in actual ability. We will not sugar-coat the truth. I know from personal experience that the way you train is the way you will fight and that suitable training should put pressure on you so that when the time comes, you will have confidence as you approach a life or death situation. The training I went through in the military special operations world was difficult, and at times it sucked, but it did prepare my crew and me for the harsh realities of our mission-set.
Spike’s School aims to do the same for you and your K9 partner.
I have really struggled with the state of affairs in our country for the last few years. Riots, fires, innocent people being killed. Fundamentalists and ideologues seem to be woven into our national character in ways that are frighteningly similar to some of the places where I fought while I served in the military. Those places had massive breakdowns in leadership and public trust and they turned into tribal states where the fundamentalists and ideologues tried to kill each other off with a fervor that the “regular folks” couldn’t contend with.
In my opinion, we have far more in common with one-another than we do different.
My buddy “Joey Nobody” put this artwork together for us and we will be selling swag that shows it off.
I truly believe that we are, indeed, walking each other home.
Wishing you Peace-
A few days ago, a K9 that our supporters have helped, K9 Arlo, was shot while doing his job.
The amount of support from citizens and Veterinarians, specifically the Newaukum Valley Veterinary Services organization, who donated all of the time and work for Arlo’s initial care, and various departments in both Washington and Oregon, has been amazing.
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.
Thank you for your support!
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.
Well, we took Harlan’s suggestion and we held the “Canned goods and Canines” event at Double Tap Military Surplus on Northampton Blvd in Virginia Beach. The Norfolk Police Department joined us and many officers brought food to drop off.
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.
With gratitude and appreciation.