Meet Our FURiends: Marli, Soot, and Julie

Enjoy this amazing, heroic story of Julie and her pups, Soot and Marli. We couldn't be prouder to have them as a brand ambassador. Farm to Pet has been featuring American Heroes all month on our social media channels. Check out more about some truly outstanding dogs and humans on our Instagram
@marlithemalligator
Serving with a Service Dog

For as long as I could remember, I always admired K9 handlers. Whenever I would see the Philadelphia Police Department out in their parades, I would specifically look for the K9 unit. As a little girl, all of my friends admired Lassie, the famous Collie.
Don't get me wrong - Lassie was an extremely cool cat (or...dog) but I had always been drawn to, what in my eyes, was the regalest breed out there: The German Shepherd. I admired heroes like Rin Tin Tin and 'Jerry Lee' from those goofy K9 movies.
At age 17, I decided that I would join the Army in hopes of becoming a 31K, which in the Army is the MOS (duty position) for a K9 handler. Long story short, when I signed on with the National Guard - I was sent off to become a fueler. Although heartbroken, I never gave up. After 3 years, I went to college and joined ROTC to become an officer. That was when I met my first German Shepherd, Soot
@soot_the_shepherd
Soot was everything I could have hoped for in a dog. He was obedient, he was loving, and above all, he was driven to work. He was loyal. Unfortunately, the time had come when I had to go away for 9 months on a tour of duty. Soot was still too young to train for any serious duty work, so I left him in the care of my former spouse.
When I came home months later, Soot was not the dog I remembered. He had gotten extremely aggressive with other dogs and people; including me. Essentially, it got to the point that all of my family and friends told me that I had to give up on Soot. But this was never a question in my mind. Rather - I left the marriage, and Soot and I moved out on our own. It was a struggle, trying to balance my duty shifts and be home for him. I was told he was even too unstable for military duty. (By this time, as an officer I had transitioned to Military Police.)
That was when the miracle happened, I met a man named John Wadsworth. John had a Doberman named Bucca who was a protection dog trained (Schutzhund Level 2). John told me that no matter what it took; he was not giving up on Soot either.
@marlithemalligator
John worked with me for 10 months straight, and at this point, Soot was 3 years old. He had gone from a Wild Wolf to the most disciplined dog I had ever met. He even titled in his own Schutzhund trials. 
Soot and I started to make a name for ourselves, and because of his drive and duty - we were contracted out by a private security company to work events as a security detail. Soot was amazing at his job, and he even won a K9 Medal of Courage from a police department in Montgomery County for detecting a man who was attempting to bring an illegal substance into a fall festival. 
Recently, Soot experienced bloat and had to have immediate surgery. It cost $8K to save his life; but it was no question. My best friend needed me. I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who requested a GoFundMe link or an Amazon Wishlist to donate to Soot's recovery. Soot received over 100 donated gifts consisting of medicine, supplements, toys, blankets and beds. He just turned 9 on July 5th, and the surgery was two months ago. My boy is a fighter.
@marlithemalligator
Soot has recently been joined by three other siblings. Marli, Loki and now Ara. All three of whom are rescues, who are all trained/or in training for different fields. Marli for Bomb Detection (USAF), Loki for Protection Detail (Department of Defense), and Ara for Search and Rescue (Private Contracting). 
All 4 of my dogs are heroes, and I could not be prouder of them for the work they have done or the training that they have completed. Now that they have a permanent home, I cannot wait to continue working with these organizations to have these dogs do what they do best; and that is work. 
I feel as though I have been so blessed to have all 4 of these dogs in my life. In addition to being 'working' dogs, Marli is also a trained Service Dog. She is trained to assist me with my PTSD from both military and firefighting/EMT careers. She goes with me everywhere and since she's been trained for detection work - not only is she happy to be with me, but her little nose is always going. 
@marlithemalligator
I will say this, I never knew that both the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois breeds could be so affectionate. They love both Ray and I relentlessly and they are extremely driven to duty. A lot of people see these movies like 'Max' and 'Dog' and rush out to buy a Malinois or a German Shepherd. 
I cannot stress the importance; these dogs need to work. They need a job. They will love you relentlessly. There are days when I am definitely frustrated, but at the end of the day - these are our children, and we love them deeply. 
There are a lot of K9 handlers out there who have amazing stories, like Meghan Leavey. If you are not familiar with her story, I highly suggest that you read about her and her German Shepherd, Rex.
@marlithemalligator
By the way - Fun fact, in the military, the dog always outranks the handler! This is to teach the handler to respect their K9 like they would a senior ranking individual. 
Treat you Heroic Hounds next week!

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