Obstacles

When I was a young guy going through some arduous training, one of the things we spent time on, every few days, was an obstacle course.  It was challenging, and we were on the clock. It was always a pass/fail evolution.  Looking back on it, I realize how daunting some of those obstacles were for me.  Obstacles designed to force a human to commit to the required movement fully, or it was impossible to negotiate successfully. 

Why all of this?  Because time has shown that training to do a difficult task is essential, especially when the stakes are high, you know, life and death.

There were times when I had to fully commit to an endeavor to do my part in making it successful in life and death situations.  My leaders would have been inept, had they put me in a fight I wasn’t trained to the best of my ability, to win.  My leaders, taught by theirs and history, knew we needed to be physically and mentally capable to commit ourselves fully when the time came. The obstacle course helped them do that.

On Saturday, we will, with the help of some fantastic people, construct a K9 Obstacle course for the working Dogs of Roanoke VA, and all surrounding jurisdictions. It will be the seventh build/refurb that we have successfully negotiated.

These Roanoke Dogs need the opportunity to push themselves in a “safe” environment.  They need to feel confident when they commit to jumping through a window or over a fence while doing the difficult work we sometimes ask of them.  Are we giving those Dogs all the tools they need to be successful? I believe that my training on the obstacle course directly impacted my ability to perform at a high level in combat. I think these Dogs, who are not volunteers like I was, deserve the best opportunity to execute their mission.

One other corollary benefit to these builds is that we often meet the Officers and their families. The public, with proper personal protective equipment, can meet and speak with the folks they ask to protect them and meet the beautiful K9’s who work on their behalf.

The community benefits from the service of the K9. The community will come together for the betterment of the K9 Teams. Dogs will be better prepared to succeed in their work. Win. Win. Win.


Crime prevention, K9 Style

In 1995 I went to Paris to work with a particular special police unit involved in several battles with terrorists and high-level criminals in and outside France. It was the first time I’d worked with a group that used K9’s. I will never forget what one of their team-leaders told me about the Dogs: “Most of the time when a suspect hears that there are K9’s as part of the equation, they give up.”

In this time of hard discussions regarding the way we want to police our communities, I want to share how useful and SAFE the working K9’s are. The Dog, once sent to apprehend a subject, can be called back. A bullet, once it leaves the barrel of a gun, cannot return. The same is true with a taser. Have there been any deaths caused by K9’s? In the history of using K9’s in communities, I can find two. Two among the thousands of K9 deployments that have occurred since we began keeping records.

The K9 brings a level of protection, even in its use with violent suspects. Dog bites hurt, but are not by and large, “life-threatening.” The K9, by its very presence, can de-escalate a situation—an important fact and one that needs to be reflected on while discussing policing in our communities.

At Spike’s, our mission is to protect the K9’s who serve our community. Part of doing that is in educating our supporters in their use and the realities of their work.

The K9 trained to conduct violence on those who’ve demonstrated disregard for our laws is an essential part of community policing.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. We have among us, humans who want to do bad things and K9’s help us to apprehend safely those who threaten our fellow citizens or us. These K9’s protect the innocent and the officers we ask to represent us in violent situations.

Please help us help them.


The Hard and much-needed Dogs.

For centuries of human history, working Dogs have helped protect us maintain our livestock, guard our property, hunt sustenance, or fight in our crazy battles.
As a human whose life has been saved by canines on multiple occasions, I can tell you that they are value-added in almost any situation where there is a risk of violence. The night I was wounded, 11 years ago, a Belgian Malinois named “Remco” found two enemy combatants lying in a ditch waiting to ambush us. His ability to smell the humans and his quickness saved all of us. He died while protecting us. He took two Ak-47 rounds to his head from about 6 inches.
K9’s trained to find humans are a special breed, and they deserve recognition for their contribution to our local and national security. This business of war and violence was my vocation for over 20 years, and I’d need more fingers and toes to count the lives I’ve personally seen saved by the work of our canines.
For any number of reasons, one may disagree with dogs being used to find and apprehend humans, and I understand those disagreements. But we need these type of dogs despite the ugliness attached to this type of work. We do not live in a perfect stratosphere, far away from the ugliness of this world. K9’s trained to hunt humans also get asked to locate children or senior citizens who get lost in the woods. These K9’s also help law enforcement professionals find and apprehend dangerous criminals in our communities.
In combat zones, where, fortunately, it is an “away game” for our forces, the combat dogs help to level the playing field to capture or kill enemy combatants while saving the lives of our troops. When these military and police canines finish with their jobs, they will, because of the harsh realities of violent conflict, need medical assistance for the injuries and damage that they have suffered working for their human counterparts. Our mission is to care for these dogs during and AFTER their work on our behalf. We do that by providing the best k9 protective equipment and providing financial assistance with the medical costs that these K9’s incur.
Some K9’s do rough work for our communities. These Dogs deserve our care and devotion. Spike’s K9 Fund, because of our supporters, does just that.


Harsh Reality

Over the last few days we’ve had a few members of our “Spike’s Pack” move on to new realities. One of the K9’s helped by our supporters, passed away suddenly a few days ago. One military K9 was switched to a new handler. These are extremely difficult times for the humans involved. The K9’s become part of our families and in the case of the LEO or Military K9’s when they move along, that human loses a soul that most likely saved their life on one or multiple occasions.

This kind of loss is especially difficult and one that I am familiar with. The connections we make with dogs are woven into our characters and when they go, for whatever reason, they leave an empty space that cannot be filled by anything but time.

For my friends in this Dog world, I can only say that I feel like those of us who get the opportunity to share our lives with those amazing souls; souls wrapped in fur and beauty, are quite fortunate. Those relationships are special and that is why the loss is so very painful.

My advice; let the sting of loss sit in your heart and know how lucky you are to have made that type of connection with a Dog. Your life is better because of that connection and you are a better human because of it.

Some say we don’t deserve Dogs.

Some might be right.

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle” -St. Francis of Assisi


Connections

Tracy & Kathie

A couple of years before I started Spike’s K9 Fund, I was headed out to Arizona to do some contract work for the military. I was still struggling to move well, and I had a considerable amount of equipment with me. I flew into Tucson International, grabbed a cart for all of my bags, and had Mina, my service Dog, on a leash with me. We made our way to the rental car counter, and the woman who helped us told me to “wait right here,” and as Mina and I stood there, she went out to the parking lot and grabbed our rental vehicle for us. When she exited the vehicle, she immediately went to the back and started lifting heavy luggage and putting it in the car. I was amazed at the courtesy this woman showed us, and I noted her name so I could write an email to the rental car company. It turns out, one “Kathie Morley” was the manager of that particular branch, and she tracked me down based on my email address and thanked me for the kind words I shared about her and her office. We became quick friends and stayed in touch. We even went skydiving together. After Spike’s K9 Fund started, Kathie became one of our biggest supporters, also showing up at an event in Ohio! Kathie is the lovely woman on your right in the above photo.


In 2014 when I first started Spike’s K9 Fund, a woman named Tracy Reardon from Austin Texas reached out and said she was a maker of “bullet jewelry” and mentioned that she’d like to donate some to our cause! I was shocked that a person in Texas had heard about us and wanted to support us, especially a talented jewelry artist! It turns out, that artist has been with us and donating her beautiful work every time we have a significant event. She has helped us raise quite a bit of $ over the years, and last year we were able to meet her at our “Spike’s Soiree” here in Virginia Beach. It was amazing. Tracy is on your left as you look at the above photo.
These two women became friends on Facebook at some point, and recently, Kathie went to Austin, Texas, where she and Tracy connected in person and took this photo.

One of the things I’ve learned in my time here on the blue dot is that good relationships are one of the most valuable things one can possess, and seeing this relationship from afar, a bond forged through the support of our cause, makes me quite happy.


Thank you Tracy and Kathie, for sharing this great photo and helping to show us how working towards a good cause can create lasting and valuable relationships. 🙏🏼


My view

Hello Spike’s supporters. This is a difficult and complex time in our nation. The death of Mr. Floyd was a horrendous crime and it should have never happened and it should never happen again.

Our collective national emotions are running high, for very good reasons.

As you all know, we support working K9’s and many of those K9’s work with our law enforcement teams. We like to advertise that we have helped K9’s in 46 of the 50 states, and for that, we are proud.

I want to share my personal view of the law enforcement teams I know, and I know more than a few. We have an active Police Officer who works part-time for Spike’s. We hear feedback from Officers from all over when they thank us for the help our supporters have given their K9’s, or when come to one of my speeches.
The cops I know are not criminals. They are not racists. They are not fascists. I know that most law enforcement officers are the kind of people that would listen to you yell “Fuck the Police” in their faces and then help you when you needed it despite their personal feelings. They are professionals, and they care about their communities.

As a 53-year-old white guy, I cannot comprehend racism in the same way as a person who has suffered it, especially when it is systemic. I abhore the idea that there are people who do not believe “all men are created equal” and I hope these convulsions we are presently experiencing, create the environment to correct those wrongs.


What I can understand, and this is from experience, is that there are bad, violent people who wait for the opportunity to rob or hurt innocent people, and the Police are the ones standing between them and you

The Police that we support signed up to do that difficult work because they wanted to help people.

If any of you law enforcement professionals need help with your Dog, we are here. If you need help working through a tough time, I am available. I have a graduate degree in being a psych patient and if nothing else, I can tell you stories about the poor choices I made, and they will surely help you to laugh.

Spike’s K9 Fund is proud to support our professional law enforcement units.
We are grateful for their willingness to “stand in the breach” for us.

Godspeed.


Memorial Day 2020

Memorial Day is a special day and I am grateful for the way it helps us focus on those who died to enable us to enjoy the lives we live.

These are the K9’s that I served with who were killed while fighting on behalf of the United States of America.

We honor the humans and dogs that died for our freedom.


Summer Intern “Monika”

When I started at college as a 52 year old last fall, I was scared to death. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the 18-year-olds with me. One of them stood out immediately to me. Her name is Monika (pronounced MoNIKa) and she is pretty keen on her name being pronounced correctly! Monika was very helpful to me personally, she helped with notes and when it came time for finals she organized and led a group study for one of our classes. In short, using my vernacular, Monika is an “asset.”

Because we have some generous donors, we are in a position to hire a Summer Intern and I asked Monika if she would be interested. She has already helped out with some non-profit organizations in New Haven and I know her work ethic in unquestionable, so when she responded that she’d like to be a part of our crew, I was quite happy.

One of the things I love most about Monika is that her story is an American story. I am a very patriotic guy and when I hear stories like hers, it makes me feel good about our nation. Her Father hails from Kosovo and her Mother from Poland. They both immigrated to the US and work pretty hard in their community of Brooklyn, NY. She has two siblings, one just graduating college and another in high school. Monika is very soft spoken and chooses her words very careful. Something I admire. She also does not, and I’m very serious here, suffer fools.

For that reason, she will be working most closely with Emily, Annemarie, and Paige!

I want to thank Monika and her family for showing us the American dream and contributing to our nation, and for Monika, especially, for being a great example to me and for being part of our “pack” this Summer.

Yale 2023!


Dynamic Dave~

This week I am keen to point out the “grey man.” The guy who does so much work behind the scenes, that it is difficult to translate to you how much he does.

Dave (in the middle) after jumping for his birthday

Dave Villaflor has been a volunteer since the beginning of Spike’s K9 Fund and has since become a part-time paid employee. It is unfair to call his contribution “part-time” because he is responsible for much. He helped set up and run our online store. He helps with the web-page. He keeps track of all of the items in our store. He ensures that the shipping is taken care of, and he addresses any problems that our supporters might have with things they’ve ordered from us.

Additionally, he has to navigate my insanity! In short, Dave just flat gets sh*t done, and never asks for any accolades. He is one of the big reasons we are as successful as we’ve been.

Thanks Dave. I am very grateful for you and your commitment to Spike’s K9 Fund.


Tough People (and Dogs) for tough times.

This pandemic is an opportunity to see how the people around you react to stress. I’m around some pretty amazing folks and one of them is our “Communications Asset” who also works full time as a K9 Officer.

Her name is Annemarie. She is dedicated to her family, her Dogs, her work as a Police Officer and, fortunately for us, her work with Spike’s K9 Fund.

I admire her and those like her, who make a very significant commitment to our community.

Annemarie and her partner, K9 Argo

The times are tough for many people. Crime has increased. People need help. Annemarie and those who wear the badge, step up for all of us and I want her and them, to know that we appreciate their dedication and work on our behalf.

As you go to sleep tonight, say a little prayer (or if you don’t pray, send kind thoughts) for those out there who are working to keep our communities and thus, all of us, safe.