Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sarge Gabe--Army Dog

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Homepage >News Archives > ArticleHero dog: After 170 combat patrols, K-9 lives a life of leisure

May 3, 2012

By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson Leader

Gabe1Gabe shows affection for his owner, Staff Sgt. Chuck Shuck, a drill sergeant leader with the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School.

Gabe2Gabe retired from the military as a sergeant first class. During his time in Iraq to sniff out weapons and explosives, the dog received three Army Commendation Medals and one Army Achievement Medal.

Gabe3Gabe, seen napping above, has more than 11,000 followers on Facebook, and is a candidate for the 2012 Hero Dog Awards.

Gabe4Gabe receives his medal as the American Kennel Club's Military Working Dog of the Year in 2008.

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FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- These days, Gabe lives a life of leisure, spending most of his days snoozing on the couch. A few years ago, his time was spent working under the scorching Iraq sun, trying to find explosives, ammunition and other weapons before they could be used against him. He racked up 26 "finds" during the 170 combat patrols he took part in, the largest of which was a cache of rounds discovered on the banks of the Tigris River.

Retiring at the rank of sergeant first class, Gabe is 9 years old.

And he's a dog.

"When he's working he's very focused," said Staff Sgt. Chuck Shuck, a drill sergeant leader at the Drill Sergant School. Shuck is Gabe's former handler and now, in the animal's retirement, owner. "He's getting a little older now, so he's pretty docile. He still chases squirrels in my yard at home, but now he pretty much just lies around the house."

Despite the success he'd eventually rack up during his time in Iraq, Gabe wasn't a welcome presence when he and Shuck first arrived. Using an animal to sniff out weapons and explosives was a new concept to the Soldiers tasked to put him to work, and Shuck said Soldiers weren't excited about using an animal during already tense searches for weapons and explosives.

"On our fifth mission we started finding things," he said. "When we found a cache of 36 122-mm rounds, they couldn't get enough of us. He was the most productive dog in the Iraqi theater during that one-year period."

Not all of the finds involved direct discoveries of weapons, though. On a few occasions, the dog directed Soldiers to look a little deeper into the backgrounds of the people they were searching.

"We'd find a lot of pistols and, sometimes, find nothing in the vehicles," he said. "But we'd test the drivers and there'd be residue of explosives, C4 or TNT on their hands."

Shuck said Gabe serves as an example of what communities lose when animals fail to find homes at shelters. Originally a pound puppy from Houston, Gabe was picked up and sent to school by the Army.

Shuck was paired with Gabe and another dog in 2006, with Gabe passing his final evaluation in Numa, Az., after five months of training. A few weeks later the two found themselves on the ground in Iraq.

"Gabe left Iraq with three Army Commendation Medals and an Army Achievement Medal from the different units, and about 40 coins of excellence," Shuck said. "Me, as his handler, I only got two."

Gabe received the 2008 Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club, a national award that included animals from all armed forces. But Gabe and Shuck briefly parted ways when they returned to America, with the dog sent to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where he was paired up with another handler.

The working relationship didn't last long, though, because Gabe refused to work with his new handler.

"I got to adopt him and he's been living with me since July, 2009," Shuck said. "At home he's eating tennis balls and lying on the couch, and he's gained about 25 pounds."

While Gabe is no longer working, he's staying active in other areas, and currently has more than 11,000 followers on his Facebook page. He's visited wounded Soldiers in hospitals, and has maintained a pen pal program with students in Georgia.

"We like to educate kids on respect, and staying in school," Shuck said. "We talk to them about the Army Values in general and sent each of the kids Army dog tags. And my Soldiers in basic training wrote to them what Army Values meant to them."

"Team Gabe" is currently mobilized to help the dog win the nationwide 2012 Hero Dog Awards from the American Humane Association. He's already collected 30,000 votes, Shuck said.

The Hero Dog Contest has two stages. The first round lasts until June 30 and allows people to vote once every 24 hours. If Gabe wins his category, then he will compete against seven other dogs from other categories starting July 1.

The Hero Dog Awards were created in 2010 to celebrate the relationships between dogs and people. Hundreds of dogs from all 50 states were nominated and some 400,000 votes were cast by the American public, culminating in the selection of eight canine finalists. Panels of past celebrity judges have included Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, Mark Hamill and Jillian Michaels.

"Last year, Gabe was the runner-up in our category," Shuck said. "We didn't have the following that we have this year."

He said Gabe is an example of cost-effective resources the Army could put to use every day.

"You can take a pound puppy and make him into a war dog, train him to go out there and do some great things," he said. "All of these dogs that are getting put to sleep in shelters, maybe some of them we could use as military dogs. Rather than going out and buying these dogs, why not look for labs, golden retrievers or German Shepherds in pounds and shelters and start using them?"

To vote for Gabe in the 2012 Hero Dog Awards, visit

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Real Story of the "Royal" Family--By Lulu/Mariam the Dog

So I was supposed to take over this blog long ago. It was promised to me but one little critical remark about high master muckety-muck alpha male, and my column gets put on hiatus. What did I say so wrong, that alpha male slept all day and never took me out for a walk? Was that a lie? This guy was a disaster. Really. He was depressed as could be. He ought to thank me for my perceptions. Two-and-one-half years this guy couldn't snap out of it. Now, he seems a little better but he's gone all day, too tired to play when he gets home, and still no walk. How is this fair, I ask you?

Alpha female gets me out a walking a few times a week. I like that. Now she's home all day. That's pretty cool really. She looks me in the face and talks to me all the time. I like that, but she did slap my butt the other day when I barked at that weird lady with the weird coat and her weird poodle. She said I was going to wake the baby. But what could she expect? The lady's coat is like a million years out of date, and her dog has got sneaky eyes. Hello, this is 2012 and you are not on the ski slopes and poodles are passe. Do you see poodles on tv as anything but a joke? Cute mixed-breeds are in honey.

Don't think I'm going to pull any punches here. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. Here's the thing. Did anyone think to ask me before they pasted my image all over this blog? What is my image anyway, public domain? HELLO? I mean what the hell? If I'm good enough to use as a model, how bout at least at little mention. Think I'm going to post another head shot here. Not on your life.

So, I covered Alpha male and female. Now to the rest. You know Ren from Ren and Stimpy? That nihilistic little chihuahua? That is Moo. Now Moo, his alpha male, female and alpha baby stayed here for three months while they looked for a house. At first I was kind of shocked when I wasn't even asked my opinion of this. Could you at least have asked me? Anyway, you'd think it would be great having Moo the chihuahua/terrier mix around. I thought we could hang out in the back yard, and chase squirrels and birds and bark at the neighbors together, but no, little Mr. Sissy Pants gets sick in the back yard, how precious. He was a depressed little pain around here, and though I know he's got issues, come on. Sheeze, he spent more time in bed than Alpha used to. At least he could have helped me raid the garbage once in a while. Oh well, how was he to know his alphas were going to have a human puppy?

That reminds me about Holly, the human puppy who lived here for awhile. She is pretty cool when you get used to her. When she first started hanging around, she was like this squawking little bare bird or something. If you just looked at her, she'd want to crap her pants, or eat, or turn over, Except for crapping, she couldn't do anything for herself, and you'd think she'd learn to go outside to do that, but she still hasn't learned anything about house training. She's a little slow if you ask me. By six months a dog puppy has pretty much learned not to mess in the house--if not, they kind of hit the paper most of the time anyway. A human puppy carries their crap around in their pants. It's uncivilized if you ask me. But this human puppy Holly is really very affectionate. She wants to hug me all the time, or follow me around holding onto my butt like we're in some conga line. Once in a while, she'll drop the food she's eating, and I can get to it before that little vulture Moo--so she has some good points.

Which reminds me--hey, my alphas--if you don't like those frozen meatballs and fatty little chicken bites, what makes you think I want it? No sauce even. If I wasn't so hungry all the time eating those crunchy little round things, I'd turn my nose up at that crap you feed me to get rid of it. Really. Two cups of food and a couple of cookies each day? You try eating that. ARE YOU GUYS GETTING MY MESSAGE? Why not throw me a bone now and again? How bout those chicken breasts or a cube of butter? No. Let me just watch you eat those Pepperidge Farms cookies then. Know how many calories are in those? Enough to sustain a dog I bet.

Finally I will describe the other dog in my life, the female Xena. She's about the same age as Moo, but lives with her alphas and an alpha adolescent name Anika. I do like that Anika. She like doesn't tell me to shut up or get down or anything like that. If I want to sleep with her, that isn't a problem. She pets me and acts nice. There's no crap in her pants at all.

Xena's humans besides Anika are okay for people. It's not like they feed me any more than my humans though. I stay with them sometimes, and sometimes Xena stays at my house. Xena is a terrible attention hound. If I am getting some affection from a human, and she's around, bam, she knocks me out of the way and butts in. Really, have some dignity black dog. Why so needy? There's plenty of affection to go around. Let me have mine. After all, I am the senior dog in this freaking family. Relax!

Well, that's about it, the good and the bad. Everyone of the humans has a few weird habits. The dogs too aren't perfect, even me. Hey, I grew up in the streets. I used to be known as Miriam in my past. I spent some time homeless. My original family let me stay in jail, and didn't even try to bail me out. Then came these guys. Truthfully, these overly-enthusiastic folks scared me to death when I first met them. Didn't want anything to do with Alpha male. I seem to remember some issues with a broom from my past. Don't want to think about it. I've been here a long time now, and it's a good place. There's squirrels, raccoons, skunks (nasty creatures,) an occasional possum, gophers, lizards, well, the amusements are endless. I even get a rat sometimes. It's a good life, if you guys would just consult me now and again regarding household matters.

Finally, what's with this name you guys gave me anyway? Lulu? Try living with that moniker. You know why no humans are named Lulu anymore? It's a stupid name!

That's it.