- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2005

As a dog owner and enthusiast, I would like to dedicate this Labor Day weekend to our hard-working military dogs and their handlers overseas who are working day and night to help protect Americans and the freedoms we enjoy. We often forget or are simply unaware that military dogs protect our nation and our way of life — even over three-day weekends and on holidays.

Dogs have been used for security and early warning signals long before they were universally loved as pets. Throughout the history of warfare, brave canines have served in battle as sentries, warriors and even mascots. They have also been used to track enemies, patrol tunnels and to send long-distance messages. Today, U.S. military working dogs, also known as a “War Dog” or “K-9,” are used overseas to detect mines and to secure the perimeters of military installations.

On July 4, Happy Tails Dog Spa in Vienna, Va., began a campaign to create awareness and generate support for these hard-working dogs and their handlers. We had modest hopes of raising $1,000 through a fund-raising event and some publicity. But many, many caring individuals rallied behind us, greatly exceeding our initial expectations. (For information or to support our efforts, call 703-821-1777.)

Because of tremendous national support, Happy Tails Dog Spa has raised more than $14,000 and has sent approximately 1,500 pounds of supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. We will now be able to fully support our eight “adopted” military units with cooling pads, protective eyewear and heat-resistant clothing.

Our efforts will not conclude on Labor Day as planned. Because the campaign has been so popular and successful, Happy Tails Dog Spa? has decided to create a permanent non-profit arm to our company, known as K-9 Support Inc., to support working dogs of all kinds. From military dogs to rescue dogs to seeing-eye dogs, we are committed to aiding these wonderful animals in any way we can.

On behalf of Happy Tails Dog Spa and all the dogs and troops supported by our campaign, I want to thank everyone who has been a champion of this worthwhile cause. Your contributions and concern for these dogs have positively impacted their lives and the lives of their handlers. I encourage everyone to keep these military dogs in their thoughts this Labor Day and to support them in any small way you can.

As one brave U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq wrote me, “It is the best feeling to know that your fellow countrymen support you in the fight, if not the fight itself.”

Amy Nichols is the president and CEO of Happy Tails Dog Spa, a dog day care and spa with locations in Virginia and Maryland.

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