What Happens After Retirement?
October 8, 2011 § 20 Comments
Dooney, a former explosives detection dog, is looking for a permanent family home. After years of national service, the future of this 8-year old Springer Spaniel now looks a little uncertain. Dooney’s adoption advertisement, which struck me as a bit unusual, stole my attention while catching up on the news this morning. It made me stop and wonder: What happens to working dogs once they have retired from their duties?
It never occurred to me that service dogs like Dooney would end up in animal shelters, where their fates are left to chance encounters with willing adopters. Being the idealist that I am, I assumed that a long-term retirement plan—or, minimally, a transition program—would be made available for canines exiting the police force and (re)entering the ‘real’ world. After all, these special dogs (like their human counterparts) put their own lives on the line each time they set off to work. So, this begs the question: Doesn’t Dooney, and others like him, deserve more than an advertisement in the newspaper? It cringes me to think that the future of active duty-dogs could be reduced to nothing more than days being spent idle in an animal shelter awaiting adoption.
My informal investigation into this subject led me to some interesting facts. There are over 170 dogs working in the Singapore Police K-9 Unit. Many of these canines began their puppyhood overseas where they were bred specifically to become working dogs and only undergo training at 18-24 months of age on location in Singapore. The four-legged recruits must then pass an evaluation test that will determine whether they are fit for the job. Those falling short of the requirements are re-assessed and, where possible, re-trained for other avenues of service. These loyal national canine heroes are allowed to work for as long as they are able to demonstrate a physical and mental ability to do so—most, however, will retire by the time they are 8 years of age.
What strikes me is the number of retirees that leave the Police K-9 Unit each year. According to the Singapore Home Team website:
…about 40 dogs retire annually and the Police K-9 unit will hold up to three adoption programmes per year to help them find a home.
I was unaware that such an adoption program exists for retired working dogs in Singapore and am delighted to learn about it. So, for potential adopters who have exhausted their options in finding a family companion at local animal shelters such as the SPCA, they can now consider opening their hearts and homes to a retired K-9 Unit dog. After years of dedicated service, I think these hardworking canines truly deserve a relaxing and rewarding retirement.
As for Dooney, his adoption advertisement in the newspaper has left me still puzzled. Whatever his circumstances may be, I hope Dooney finds a good home very soon.