Golfers Take a Swing at Helping War Dogs Find Homes

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Former NHL player Jeremy Roenick reacts after volunteering to put on a bite suit and get attacked by a trained war dog during a demonstration at Coto de Caza on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. The show was part of a fundraising golf tournament to raise money for retired war dogs.
Former NHL player Jeremy Roenick reacts after volunteering to put on a bite suit and get attacked by a trained war dog during a demonstration at Coto de Caza on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. The show was part of a fundraising golf tournament to raise money for retired war dogs. (Mindy Schauer/Orange County Register)

They were relentless, fearless, loyal warriors, helping keep the nation and its military safe by sniffing out bombs and tackling terrorists.

These four-legged fighters were so good at their jobs, bounties were sometimes placed on their heads.

And when the war dogs return from combat, just like the service members they worked alongside, they come home with health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder struggles.

Unlike their human counterparts they have no health insurance. And that's partly why Mission K9 and Warrior Dog Foundation exist, to raise money to help pay for those expenses, as well as help place the dogs in "comfortable, peaceful, loving homes for the remainder of their lives."

On Monday, a charity golf tournament was played in Coto de Caza to raise money for the two groups. Last year the tournament raised $250,000. Former Anaheim Duck and NHL Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne was among the celebrity players who participated in this year's fourth annual event.

The dogs put on a show for the players, sniffing out "explosives," and tackling volunteer bad guy and NHL Hall of Famer Jeremy Roenick, who donned a padded bite suit for the attack.

"It was so, so insane," Roenick said after the demonstration.

"The pressure is unbelievable," he said of the dog's bite, even through the suit -- he had a bruise on his right arm to show for it.

Laura Sellards, who founded the Texas-based Warrior Dog Foundation in 2012, works with the canines after they've returned so they can find a good home. Previously, she said, "they would have been euthanized."

She is currently working with 30 retired dogs so they can be adopted.

Mission K9, also based in Texas, has reunited 600 dogs with their original handlers and re-homed about another 600 since the nonprofit organization's 2013 inception.

Owners of retired military dogs described the bond as "intense," because the animals learned with their humans to depend on each other for survival.

Another dog at Monday's event was 10-year-old yellow lab Sasha. He had worked as a mine-detecting dog in Turkey. His endless smile and gentle nature made him a crowd favorite.

His adoption is pending.

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