In dog we trust: Marines memorialize a trusted friend

9 Jan 2003 | Sgt. Christopher D. Reed

A crimson marker was recently added to the 26 others bearing the names of military working dogs that have passed away following their service here and abroad.The Marines of K-9 section, Military Police Company, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base paid tribute Dec. 23 to Menno, a military working dog and one of their trusted work companions. Following 11 years of service, Menno was put to rest due to a tumor found on his spleen.Menno was a Belgian Malinois, a breed favored by the military because of its combination of intelligence, speed, strength, keen sense of smell and adaptability to almost any climate. Using these traits, Menno is credited for 60 seizures of drugs and paraphernalia, according to Cpl. Ivan Martinez, a handler for the Provost Marshal's Office. "During his eleven-year career, Menno was responsible for the seizure of 1,000 pounds of marijuana," said the Cayey, Puerto Rico, native. "That amount has a street value of $800,000." Additionally, Menno was involved in two deployments. Once to Puerto Rico and another to El Paso, Texas, where he worked "paw-in-hand" with the U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army."Monkey dog," as Martinez called him at times, went through extensive training before becoming a crime-fighting canine. The dogs must first become detection certified, which allows the handlers to use them in the seizure of narcotics."During detection training, there will be a scented object put into a box. The dog will then be encouraged to find the box, and when he does he will be given a reward," said Martinez. "Reward is key to the success of all the dog's training."According to Martinez, the next evolution of training, patrol certification, allows the military police to use the dogs in the apprehension of suspects."As with people, dogs have a lot of personality. There are some things they are going to do and some things they are not going to do," said Martinez. "Menno had a good detection record, but when it came to patrols he was stubborn."According to Gunnery Sgt. Shawn D. Horne, company gunnery sergeant, MP Company, most of the dogs are extraordinary; however, another element that cannot be overlooked is the impact Marines have working with the dogs. "The Marines that work with the military working dogs put in a lot of hours," said Horne. "Before the Marines work with the dogs, they have to develop a relationship. Often this relationship begins with the Marine simply sitting outside of the dog's cage for many days," said the Lancaster, Texas native.The relationship that developed between Menno and the Marines was evident during the burial ceremony. Marines bowed their heads in respect and others fired their M-16A2 service rifles during a gun salute, which was followed by words to remember Menno by."He had a lot of heart and was a strong dog," said Martinez. "I have a lot of respect for Menno because before we realized he was sick he still worked hard. Toward the end he was a mellow dog. He just wanted attention and to be pet."