Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, wants every retired war dog to have its day — actually their own official Utah holiday.
She is pushing to create “K9 Veterans Day” every March 13, and the Legislature’s Veterans and Military Affairs Commission endorsed her bill on Tuesday — after a couple of retired military dogs helped to lobby for it.
K9 Veterans Day has been observed for years unofficially around the nation, after a push by the late Joseph White, a military dog handler during the Vietnam War. Lisonbee said Utah should add it to its list of official state observances.
“In 1942, the U.S. Canine Corps were created, and these well-trained and dedicated dogs became part of the military,” she said.
“There are Border Patrol K9s, customs K9s, police K9s, Secret Service K9s, TSA K9s. And in all branches of the armed services, these dogs help with search and rescue, explosives and narcotics detection, scout patrol and subduing the enemy.”
Lisonbee added that such dogs received more attention recently after President Donald Trump honored at the White House a Belgian Malinois named Conan that was injured during the raid that took down Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
She introduced Mazzie and Geli, two dogs who served in Kuwait for contractors that served the U.S. military, as living reasons to honor all military dogs. The pair have attracted plenty of news media attention in Utah for helping to heal other human veterans after they were rescued.
Owner Linda Crismer said such dogs often are abandoned or even euthanized after their service, but groups work to find homes for some. She said her dogs apparently suffered abuse, and took a long time to heal. “They are more normal now. They both do have PTSD.”
They have been adopted by a variety of veterans’ groups, and Crismer said she has been amazed at how the human and dog veterans seem to communicate and help one another.
“These K9s selflessly serve and save, and they deserve to be remembered,” Lisonbee said.
Her resolution will be introduced officially after the Legislature convenes its annual general session next month.
Among the many lesser-known-but-official Utah commemoration days are Utah State Flag Day on March 9; Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day on March 29; Utah Railroad Workers Day on May 10; Juneteenth in June; Navajo Code Talker Day on Aug. 14; Missing and Exploited Children’s Day on Aug. 26; Constitution Day on Sept. 17; Victims of Communism Memorial Day on Nov. 17; and Bill of Rights Day on Dec. 15.