When I first met Myra, fondly known as “Maya” and her owner, Don Thomas at the American Legion post 356 in Hamlet, Indiana to discuss her birthday and upcoming benefit on May 28, 2011, she looked like any other well behaved Shepard dog. It wasn’t until I was well into the interview that I realized that this retired war hero was actually quite an amazing specimen.
As she nuzzled my leg looking for a bit of affection, I realized that in my lifetime I had accomplished far less than this decorated canine had in hers. I began to see why Mr. Thomas was so passionate about wanting to gain national attention in order to save other dogs like Myra.
Myra is a 12 year old retired veteran. Like many other canines, she’s spent over half of her life serving her country. This Belgium Whelp might be retired but like many other retired veterans, she retains the skills acquired in her training. And though she isn’t making much of a fuss about the fact that though she’s earned 3 Purple Hearts serving her country, the government has yet to issue the physical medal to her, her owner along with the commander of the American Legion post 356 are making a fuss of it.
This retired canine veteran has served in the Army as well as the Marines, something that only about 10% of the dogs that the military uses actually achieve according to Myra’s owner. During her six years of service, she saved countless lives in Afghanistan and Iraq using her bomb detecting abilities. The Purple Heart (thrice over) is just one of the many honors she’s earned. But, the benefit to be held at the American Legion Post 356 in Hamlet, Indiana on May 28, 2011 isn’t just about giving Myra her medal. It’s also about helping other military dogs to be able to enjoy their retirement.
Don Thomas has decided to devote himself to this cause and the American Legion post 356 has decided to get on board with the idea of helping retired canine military members to enjoy safe homes with all the benefits of a long happy retirement. Myra has become a sort of spokesperson for these animals and all she asks in return is a bit of affection in the way of a rub behind the ears and some leisure time with her companion, cat Little Willy Knight.
Those who attend the benefit at the Hamlet American Legion will enjoy a chili dinner along with a friendly atmosphere and the pleasure of Myra’s search for affection. Anyone who might approach Mr. Thomas with questions about the details of Myra’s exploits, skills or war wounds might learn that Myra suffers from being shot in her hind legs and that her larynx is a bit displaced due to the bomb that went off below her.
Don’t be fooled by the cataracts in her loving eyes either. She’s as alert as she ever was and able to fearlessly protect her master along with children and other people close to her. All it takes is a sign of aggression to bring her military training into action. Myra and many other retired military dogs require a master who is able to help the dogs go from being a working military member to a pet and know that there are plenty of expenses involved, as any animal lover will tell you.
When Bill Clinton signed into effect public law 106-446, an amendment that allows retired military canines to have owners found for them instead of being euthanized, he saved the lives of animals like Myra. This benefit helps interested parties like Don Thomas to take things one step further and help with the expense of housing these animals, medical expenses and the cost of food.
When you consider that for the price of a bowl of chili, some fun with friends and a chance to enjoy your patriotism as you watch Myra receive her medal, you can help to make sure that other military animals live a healthy life, it almost seems as if you’re the one getting the benefit.
References: Interview with Don Thomas, personal experience