This sailor and his dog save lives

This photo shows MA2 Devon Johnson and his military working dog, MWD Kalo, posing in front of a U.S. flag. This sailor and his dog save lives.

Recently, an email appeared in MWDTSA’s inbox entitled, “This Sailor and His Dog Save Lives.” It turned out to be an article by longtime MWDTSA donor Duke Cannon about a care package recipient! With Duke Cannon’s permission, we are reprinting the full interview below. We are grateful for their unwavering support of MWDTSA’s mission to support both ends of the leash. Please check out their amazing products!

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If you’re familiar with Duke Cannon, you know we have a special place in our hearts for those who serve our country. And we have an even bigger place in our hearts for dogs. So imagine how we feel about dogs who serve our country. (If we used emojis, it would be the face with hearts for eyes.)
 
This month, our Good Folks Project pays tribute to two heroes with a total of six legs: MA2 Devon Johnson and his military working dog, MWD Kalo. The duo travels worldwide to sniff out threats in order to keep our bases and embassies safe. In their downtime, they boost soldier morale with a heavy dose of tail wags. We are grateful for the hard work Devon and Kalo dedicate to their country, and we’re honored to share their story.

A NO-BS INTERVIEW WITH DEVON JOHNSON

How did you get involved with Military Dog Handling?

When I was first joining the Navy, I got taken by my recruiter to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to see what my future job as a Master-At-Arms would be. It was a lot of law enforcement and gate duty until I met the handlers and fell in love. I did everything I could to get selected for it in our training school, but with no luck. So, my next choice was to volunteer at the Kennels in Bahrain. I would come in on my off time as Kennel Support helping the real handlers do their job and learning from a great group of people. From there I ended up getting a letter of recommendation from the Kennel Master, and leaving Bahrain with Military Working Dog Handler orders to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

What does a normal day look like for Kalo and you?

A normal work day for us always starts out with giving him breakfast, then grooming him to make sure he’s ready for the day. After that we start our day with obedience work in explosive detection training and end our day in some kind of patrol A.K.A. “bite work”. We can and do get calls throughout the day for vehicle searches or searches of unattended bags, as we are the base’s narcotics and explosive experts.

How does Kalo help fellow soldiers, even on the toughest days?

The biggest benefit I saw was during our time in Kuwait with the National Guard. For most of the soldiers, it was their first time away from home, let alone time in the Middle East. So we allowed them to come in, get in the bite suits, pet the dogs, and show them what we do daily. It was an amazing experience to see their faces brighten up when they see dogs, especially since most people think they’re overly aggressive – but they’re just big ol’ teddy bears.

They say a dog is a man’s best friend – is this true for you and Kalo?

Oh yes it is! I love that dog as if he were my son and he made days when it was hard for me 100x better. You spend everyday with him, talk to him, workout with him, and even eat with him so you build this bond that you will never build with anyone else. We have our days when we fight – like when I just got to one of the borders for a mission and he decided he wanted to take all my clean clothes out of my bag to lay in instead of lay on his or my bed, so I didn’t have any clean clothes for a week.

Which Duke Cannon products are essential for your daily hygiene on base? Which is Kalo’s favorite scent?

The biggest must have is the Cold Shower Cooling Field Towels. I love these things to death, especially traveling between countries or when you are on duty/somewhere it’s hard to get a shower. You guys supply them to MWDTSA and we get them in care packages which help out so much. I’ll have to say Kalo’s favorite scent besides explosives is Naval Supremacy because we are U.S Navy Sailors for life. 


The Duke Cannon Good Folks Project aims to highlight hard working men and women and pups making a positive impact on their community and country.

“It takes a village”

This photo shows the Soda Pup "Heart on a String" rope toy, along with the front and back of a card we enclosed in each care package describing the collaboration with Dita the Hairmissile Dog. It takes a village to fill each care package.

We often say, “It takes a village” to fill our quarterly care packages. Four times a year, we send out approximately 200 large USPS Flat-Rate boxes, and we aim to fill them completely. Many thanks to the following Q1-2019 corporate donors…

Scout Troop 171 in Boulder, Colorado periodically sells coffee to raise money for backpacking trips and Scout camps. This year, they added an option for non-coffee drinkers—the opportunity to donate coffee for MWDTSA care packages.

Creative collaboration

This photo shows the three coffee blends MWDTSA included in Q1-2019 care packages.Sticks Coffee in Superior, Colorado also hosted a coffee fundraiser. As patrons streamed in from hockey tournaments, the cashiers asked, “Would you like to add a $10 donation to your purchase today to send coffee to a deployed military working dog handler?” Signs on the doors and at the register invited customers to take part in the drive.

Meanwhile, 822 miles away, Coffee.org of Fort Smith, Arkansas offered a stunning bulk purchase discount. This allowed donor dollars to stretch further to cover 100 percent of MWDTSA’s Q1-2019 coffee needs. We sent three small bags of coffee in each Q1 box, including a special blend that Coffee.org formulated specifically for MWDTSA. The label featured our “You and me” Q1 logo and the words “Reveille Blend: Just like the bugle, this coffee will wake you up!”

A neighborhood effort

This photo shows packets of Smokehouse Jerky Company Gourmet Brisket Beef Jerky.A post to the Oh-Oh-Two-Seven Facebook page, which serves zip codes 80027 and 80026, brought forth additional offers of help. Louisville Realty Associates (LRA) asked about our greatest Q1 needs. We had not yet secured Q1 jerky donations for handlers or dogs, so they took on that activity.

The same week LRA stepped forward, Smokehouse Jerky of California offered another generous bulk purchase discount. LRA, Nickerson Marketing, and Deep End Solutions pooled resources to fund the jerky purchase for handlers. Additionally, LRA made a personal introduction to a friend at Buckley Pet, a local dog treat manufacturer. Buckley Pet donated 200 bags of Skin & Coat Beef Jerky, enough to send one in every care package.

For the handlers…

This handsome FIFTY/FIFTY 20-ounce tumbler displays the Truckers for Troops logo.OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association) of Grain Valley, Missouri sponsors a “Truckers for Troops” fundraiser each year. Taking advantage of a generous discount from FIFTY/FIFTY, OOIDA purchased 200 coffee tumblers for our Q1-2019 boxes.

We stuffed these 20-ounce tumblers to the brim with donations from Juanita’s Pepitas, Perfetti Van Melle, Phillips Pet Food & Supplies, Picky Bars, Sweetwood Smokehouse, and VerMints.

Other handler surprises included dried apricots from Mariani Packing Company; Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds; Honey Stinger waffles; Cocomels from JJ’s Sweets, Inc.; cooling wipes from Duke Cannon; and magazines from 5280.

Each handler also received a t-shirt emblazed with “You and me, Malintine,” in honor of Valentine’s Day. We are grateful to Christian Print Shop, Inc. of Alpharetta, Georgia for their long-term support of MWDTSA with high-quality t-shirts. And to the five Kohl’s employees from the Louisville, Colorado store, who folded all 200 t-shirts into plastic bags with size labels!

The students of Jefferson Academy in Broomfield, Colorado created art to include in the care packages. This school has supported MWDTSA with art three times—Q4-2016, Q4-2017, and Q1-2019.

For the four-legged troops…

Woobamboo donated Large-Breed toothbrushes for the second year in a row.

A Petco Foundation grant, coupled with bulk purchase pricing from Prima Pets, enabled us to send a sturdy collapsible dog bowl in each care package.

Rex Specs hosted a donation drive in December to collect protective eyewear for our military working dog teams.

“Dita’s Donation Drop,” sponsored by Dita The Hairmissile, plus a matching program by SodaPup, yielded 200 Heart-on-a-String toys for our Q1-2019 boxes. And yes, these dogs do have our human hearts on a string.

Thanks to the annual KONGs for K9s drive, we included the KONG Extreme Tire in each care package. Numerous retailers and veterinary clinics help with this drive each year—including three that contributed to Q1-2019 care packages in other ways. Action-Packed Pup collected both tires and undercoat rakes. Kriser’s Natural Pet in Westminster, Colorado invited us to do an in-store event to collect tires and dog jerky.

A special shout-out to Chuck and Don’s Pet Food & Supplies (Longmont, Erie, and Arvada, Colorado). The Longmont store has hosted MWDTSA for in-store fundraising events for 30 straight months. They have taken part in the KONGs for K9s drive for three years. They have led our quarterly care package assembly twice. The managers of the Erie and Arvada stores, along with an Arvada team member, spearheaded our Q1-2019 packing event.

And last but not least…

Hats off to the Louisville (CO) Police Department for hosting our 2019 packing event and allowing us to make a temporary mess in the basement of the police station. We are grateful for your hospitality—two years in a row.

And to the United States Postal Service in Louisville, Colorado for spending a Sunday with us for the second year in a row. It was amazing to have you at the end of our packing line, and you worked tirelessly to get the boxes to the Post Office on a cold night, well after sunset.

Many thanks to all who made the Q1-2019 care packages possible, including a multitude of Amazon Wish List donors. UPS Store 1905 graciously received the many Amazon boxes and manufacturer donations, holding packages for us until we could pick them up. Nashville Wraps provided bags and ribbon for packaging donated candy.

Your contributions allow us to support both ends of the leash, and we are grateful.

Interested in helping with future care packages? Here are 14 ways to get involved, including a link to our Amazon Wish List. Or reach out to president@MWDTSA.org.

14 ways to support military working dog teams

This photo shows care packages items sent in Q1-2019 to support military working dog teams.

If you, a group, or your company would like to support military working dog teams, here are several ways to get involved. Pick something from the following list, or use these ideas as inspiration for a new endeavor. It takes a village to fill our quarterly care packages. We invite you to join us in supporting both ends of the leash.

1) Donate 200 of an item.

We try to make each quarter’s care packages relatively uniform, so that all recipients are getting the same dog toys, snacks, etc. This means we need 200 of any item we’re planning to send. Every quarter, we aim to include made-in-USA jerky, dog treats, human snacks, grooming products, and other supplies. If your company makes a product you think handlers or their dogs might like, let’s talk! If you are able to provide the full quantity of an item, we add you to our sponsor page (https://www.mwdtsa.org/sponsors/). We also highlight your involvement via our social media channels.

2) Provide a bulk-purchase discount.

If you are not able to outright donate 200 of a particular product, consider offering a bulk purchase discount. If MWDTSA can buy your product below wholesale cost, the difference between your discounted and wholesale price is tax-deductible. We provide a donor acknowledgement letter for your tax records.

3) Offer a matching program.

Customers buy one, and you throw in a second—so we end up with two care package items for the price of one.

4) Team together to sponsor a care package item.

Maybe you’re a real estate company or high-tech firm that doesn’t manufacture products, but you’d still like to help fill care packages. MWDTSA can match you with a bulk-purchase discount, enabling your organization’s donation dollars to have more purchase power.

5) Plan a fundraiser.

In the past, volunteers have coordinated golf tournaments, 5Ks, nail trimming events, Chick-fil-A fundraising nights, and other creative activities—all to raise money for MWDTSA care packages. Destination Imagination teams, Scout troops, Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates, coffee shops, breweries, and others looking for a service opportunity can make a big impact for MWDTSA.

6) Host a toy/treat drive.

If you own a retail store, veterinary clinic, or grooming salon, you can order in one of our wish-list products, place it at the register, and ask clients, “Would you like to add a treat for a military working dog to your purchase today? We’re collecting care package items for dogs deployed in global combat zones.” Customers leave their donation with you, and at the end of the drive, MWDTSA makes arrangements to get the donated products to our packing location.

7) Make an introduction.

Maybe your neighbor’s company produces an amazing snack item. We can equip you to approach your friend with a donation request. Your personal introduction can pave the way for important new partnerships and collaborations.

8) Add MWDTSA as an option on your order form.

If your kids are selling coffee or candy to raise money for their school or sports teams, they probably encounter the word “no” quite a bit. What if they could add this to their spiel: “If you are not a coffee consumer, you can also support our school/team by purchasing coffee to donate to a deployed military working dog handler.”

9) Adopt a care package.

Each care package involves approximately $150 in products and postage. Manufacturers donate many of the items we include. However, every quarter, we need assistance to cover t-shirts, tactical patches, postage, and other items. You can “adopt” a package by making a $75 donation via PayPal to fill these needs. This option includes the following benefits for donors:

  1. We will include a card in the care package, acknowledging who sponsored the box.
  2. You can dedicate the box. For example, “We are sending this care package in honor of Joe Sample, who served in World War II.”

This is a fun option for a Scout troop, school group, company, or family that wants to support military working dog teams. For more information, contact president@mwdtsa.org.

10) Collect children’s art.

A colorful painting of a dog provides cheer for handlers. Each quarter, we need at least 200 pieces of children’s art. Contact president@mwdtsa.org for criteria regarding size, subject matter, and medium.

11) Write letters of encouragement.

No one knows about deployments better than veterans who have served in global combat zones. Think back to your time overseas. Are there funny stories you can share? Advice you wish you had known earlier? Poems that boosted your morale? We’re looking for veterans groups who would like to write letters so that every care package we send has a personal communication in it.

12) Join Amazon Smile.

If you regularly shop on Amazon for your business or home, Amazon Smile donates a portion of your purchase price to the nonprofit of your choice. Choose Military Working Dog Team Support Association, and every purchase you make will help support military working dog teams.

13) Visit our Amazon Wish List.

Each quarter, and for special occasions such as National K9 Veterans Day, we maintain a registry of products we plan to include in upcoming care packages. You simply purchase one or more items, and Amazon sends them directly to our packing coordinator. Each wish list donation is tax deductible.

14) Donate through PayPal.

To send one care package requires nearly $18 in postage, and we send about 200 boxes per quarter. Some individuals and businesses contribute dollars to cover the postage bill.

Thank you for helping us support both ends of the leash!

Photo credit: Alex Sierra, Kohl’s, Louisville, CO captured this image of MWDTSA’s Q1-2019 care package contents. Alex and four colleagues from Kohl’s helped with pre-packing activities such as folding 200 t-shirts and inserting them in plastic sleeves.

KONGs for K9s: How pet stores and veterinary clinics can take part

This image features the KONGs for K9s logo, MWDTSA logo, and the two KONG toys that participating retailers are collecting in this year's drive. One is a KONG Extreme Tire. The other is a throw-tug toy.

The annual KONGs for K9s drive kicked off on August 1 and will continue through December 31, 2018. It’s a collaboration between MWDTSA and KONG Company. The matching program helps us provide KONG toys to military working dog teams deployed in global combat zones.

Here’s how the KONGs for K9s program works…

Participation is easy:

  1. Pet stores, clinics, and other dog-loving enterprises pick a month or more to take part. You collect one or both of the specific KONG toys shown in the photo above: https://www.kongcompany.com/products/for-dogs/rubber-toys/extreme-rubber-toys/kong-tires/ and/or https://www.kongcompany.com/products/for-dogs/rubber-toys/interactive-rubber-toys/tails/.
  2. MWDTSA will provide you with posters for your store, describing the initiative.
  3. You order in a supply of the toy and create a display to draw customers’ attention to the matching program. Some retailers place the display by the register and ask every customer, “Would you like to donate a KONG to a military working dog deployed in a global combat zone?” This active approach often results in more donations.
  4. Your patrons purchase the KONGs at regular retail price (or whatever price you set) and leave them with you at the register. Some stores set up visible donation bins so that customers can see the number of donated toys. Other stores tuck the donated KONGs in a back room.
  5. At the end of the drive, MWDTSA will pick up the donated KONGs from your store, if we have a volunteer in your local area. If we don’t have a volunteer near your store, we will provide shipping instructions on how to get them to us.

Once we receive your toys, we document the quantity and notify KONG. For each toy donated by your customers, KONG is matching with a second toy.

Calling all dog-loving businesses

There’s still time to sign up for 2018. Just contact president@MWDTSA.org if you’d like to take part. Indicate the name and address of your organization. Also, specify which month works best for your KONG donation drive, and which toy above you’d like to collect. We will get the posters to you right away.

While most KONGs for K9s participants are pet-related businesses, that’s not a requirement. In 2017, our largest KONG total came from Veterans United Craft Brewery. We also received KONGS from CrossFit Invasion, a fitness studio in New York!

Thanks for your interest and support!