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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!