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Military working dog exchanges bombs for pigs ears

By Tony Perez | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office | Jan. 31, 2008

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS — Most people go to the local pet store or animal shelter to find their new pet dog. But on Jan. 29, John and Jackie Yarborough from Phoenix flew to Lackland to adopt a 3-year-old German shepherd named Jenny. She was up for adoption after failing to meet the requirements necessary to become a military working dog.

The Yarboroughs found out about the adoption program in a very interesting way.

Just before Christmas, while vacationing in Hawaii, the couple saw a news segment about a military working dog that had been adopted shortly after returning from Iraq. Coincidentally, Mrs. Yarborough was standing next to a woman that was involved in the process.

"I had just finished commenting on how great that was, and the lady standing next to me said she could help me adopt a dog. She helped us get in touch with the people here at Lackland," Mrs. Yarborough said. "It was amazing. It was meant to be."

The Yarboroughs lost a dog they owned three years earlier and didn't think they could go through the process of finding another one again, but the Military Working Dog Adoption Program gave them hope.

"We knew immediately that we wanted to adopt," Mrs. Yarborough said.

The Yarboroughs chose Jenny from three dogs, but the choice wasn't easy for the couple.

"My first dog when I was a kid was named Jenny. Maybe that helped me make the choice," Mr. Yarborough said.

The Yarboroughs, who met Jenny the day before the adoption process was complete, flew into San Antonio, but decided it would be best to rent a car and drive back to Arizona.

"We aren't that acquainted with Jenny yet, but we have a three- or four-day drive to get to know our dog," Mr. Yarborough said.

First Lt. John Farmer, 341st Training Squadron Logistics Flight commander, supplied the Yarboroughs with Jenny's diet plan and proper transportation materials.

"Part of my job is to make sure the dogs that don't work out for our program find a good home," said Lieutenant Farmer. "We rely on people like John and Jackie to give these dogs that home. Just because these dogs don't work out for us, doesn't mean they won't make a great pet for someone else."

Jenny was brought in to be a detector dog, but dogs must show a lot of reward drive in order to succeed in the program.

"This dog just didn't have the necessary drive that we need to see to train a dog in an appropriate amount of time," Lieutenant Farmer said. "But this dog is going to have a beautiful home, so some might say she did it right."

Not all of the dogs that wash out of training are available to go to civilian homes, but the military has worked out something for those pups too.

"We try to adopt these dogs out to civilian law enforcement agencies," Lieutenant Farmer said. "A lot of times there is nothing wrong with these dogs; they just need more training time than we can give them."

Dogs must be trained in 120 days to meet Air Force standards.

Lieutenant Farmer and other trainers fly into Frankfurt, Germany, and travel to other parts of the country and Holland for three weeks to find dogs that will meet the Air Force's needs.

"We have to look at about 350 dogs before we find 100 we can use," Lieutenant Farmer said.

Once the dogs make it to Lackland, another 20 percent of them do not complete the training program.

"Obviously, not every dog will make the cut, but every dog still needs a home," Lieutenant Farmer said.

For more information on the adoption program, contact Barbara Stadts at 671-5874.