11/09/08 — Benny gets his bronze collar honor from AKC

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Benny gets his bronze collar honor from AKC

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 9, 2008 9:27 AM


German shepherd Benny wears his award for being "outstanding" from the American Kennel Club as he sits beside his owner and handler Debbie Kandoll.

Debbie Kandoll looks down at her German shepherd, Benny.

He is sprawled across the floor -- head down, tail at rest.

Seeing him there, she can't help but picture the fate he would have met had she not found him.

The retired Military Working Dog was supposed to be euthanized less than a year ago.

"Sometimes, I still can't believe it," Mrs. Kandoll said. "Benny shouldn't be here."

He was too old to continue his duties sniffing out drugs and bombs outside an Air Force Base gate.

None of his former handlers wanted to adopt him.

But then along came Mrs. Kandoll -- just in time.

So she wears a constant smile when she talks about all the people Benny has touched since she brought him home and trained him to be a therapy dog -- how he has evoked smiles from aging veterans, the elderly and head trauma patients; how with a wave of his paw, he just seems to connect with them.

He won an American Kennel Club award recently for being "outstanding," has been profiled on television and in print, and will be featured in the December issue of Dog Fancy magazine.

"Not bad for a dog who was sentenced to die," Mrs. Kandoll said.

Watching Benny in action has motivated his handler to fight for other retired MWDs.

Shortly after his adoption, Mrs. Kandoll set up a Web site designed to educate the masses on how to save Benny's comrades. The site even offers donors a chance to help pay for transport of the dogs from bases overseas back to the states.

And lately, Mrs. Kandoll has been lobbying elected officials -- like U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, who welcomed the shepherd into his Washington, DC, office.

She told Jones that the government should make it easier for civilians to adopt MWDs.

She suggested requiring that all dogs eligible for adoption be listed by the government on the Internet.

And eliminating the fees associated with bringing the dogs home from installations overseas or providing them military air would be "a big step," too, she said.

"Did you know that right now, when a dog is retired overseas, they have to ship them at the new owner's expense? It can cost up to $5,000," Mrs. Kandoll said. "If the transport is the only thing standing in the way, we need to step up to the plate."

But she knows policy changes don't come easy.

So Mrs. Kandoll has taken matters into her own hands.

Through her Web site, she has raised enough money to bring two dogs home.

She hopes one of them, MWD Milly, will be with her new family in Buffalo, N.Y., by Thanksgiving.

"And to think, it all started with Benny. I just wanted to give a home to a veteran," Mrs. Kandoll said. "But I believe that we were blessed with him. Benny was given to us as an ambassador for other MWDs."

For more information on Mrs. Kandoll's fight to bring all retired MWDs home, see www.militaryworkingdogadoptions.com