Sgt. Urquhart gives light to Iola on military dogs

Kane, also known as Hurricane, listens attentively to Sgt. Urquhart speak to the Iola Middle School.

Persephone Means, Editor

Traci Urquhart, Kane, and Sgt. Urquhart stand up and give a presentation about military dogs.
Persephone Means
Traci Urquhart, Kane, and Sgt. Urquhart stand up and give a presentation about military dogs. In this photo, Kane is intent on listening to his handler’s commands.

Yesterday, Iola was graced with Sgt. Michael Urquhart, his wife Traci, and Military Dog, Kane, from McConnell Air Force Base. They came to Iola as a part of the IOLA READS book, “Cracker! the Best Dog in Vietnam,” bringing to life the meaning and reality of the story.

Kane was trained as a dual-purpose animal. He was trained to find improvised explosive devices (IED) and regular explosives and to find and catch the bad guys. Kane’s career as a military dog includes seven tours – five in Afghanistan and two in the Gulf States. He has also participated in three separate secret service missions and is now happily retired. He is 11 ½ years old. In his downtime, he likes to play. “Kane’s favorite toys are his Kong, and squealing bad guys running away,” Sgt. Urquhart says. “He also loves to sleep and play – loudly – with his sister Rocco.”

Kane shows his hunting skills by playing with his favorite toy - the Kong.
Persephone Means
Kane shows his hunting skills by playing with his favorite toy – the Kong.

 

It takes about six months for the basic training. This training includes things such as jumping through windows, crawling through tunnels, and walking on narrow catwalks. The dogs are then sent to more advanced training, depending on their natural instincts. “You have to leverage their instincts. Find their stronger instincts and use that as a reward,” Sgt. Urquhart explains. “Kane’s strong suit is to chase and play with things, so we used that as an advantage.”

Part of Kane’s training was to chase bad guys. He had to bite once and hold on to the closest thing he could grab. That puts less damage to the bad guy than if he were to repeatedly clamp down.

Wife Traci Urquhart (shown above) and Sgt. Urquhart joined the Lackland Air Force Base program in 2008. Today was the first time Traci demonstrated Kane’s abilities.
Persephone Means
Wife Traci Urquhart (shown above) and Sgt. Urquhart joined the Lackland Air Force Base program in 2008. Today was the first time Traci demonstrated Kane’s abilities.

Kane can also find explosives a few feet underground. “Each dog is different, but Kane would walk along, surveying back and forth. If he smelled something, his body language would change and he starts to breathe deeper,” Sgt. Urquhart told the fifth and sixth graders at Iola Middle School. “When he gets closer, his back and forth pace would get smaller and smaller, until he sits down and stares at the spot.”

Kane smiles proudly after running after the "bad guy."
Persephone Means
Kane smiles proudly after running after the “bad guy.”

 

There are two types of dogs – dual- and single-purpose. For dual-purpose dogs, usually German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch Shepherds are enlisted. For single purpose dogs, Labradors are common. “As long as they have sharp teeth and a good nose, we can use them,” said Sgt. Urquhart.

A lot of the children were interested in the health of the dogs as they went overseas. According to Sgt. Urquhart, all of the dogs are given tattoos in their ears to help identify them if anything were to happen to them. The dogs get phenomenal health care.

Sgt. Urquhart talks to the Iola Middle Schoolers about Kane and other military dogs.
Persephone Means
Sgt. Urquhart talks to the Iola Middle Schoolers about Kane and other military dogs.

Kane was ultimately forced to retire due to joint issues. “They couldn’t send him out with a year’s worth of medication for his joints. It just wasn’t going to work out,” Sgt. Urquhart said. Dogs most commonly come back with separation anxiety, and in some cases, PTSD. If you are interested in reading about one of the nationally documented cases, click here to read about Gina the German Shepherd.

Kane is tuckered out from his demonstrations.
Persephone Means
Kane is tuckered out from his demonstrations.

In the IOLA READS book, Cracker is supposed to find and warn his handler about bad guys that are near. During the time of the book, the dogs were just left in their places of deployment. Due to Robby’s Law (2000), signed into practice by President Bill Clinton, all military service dogs suitable for adoption now come home are adopted out. If the dog is still functional to serve, civilian law enforcement has first dibs. If the dog is no longer able to serve, the previous handlers, or family of the handlers, of the dogs are called. According to petsforpatriots.org, these dogs cannot be placed in shelters, rescues, or sanctuaries because of their unique temperaments.