Soldier's Best Friend

Soldier's Best Friend

Vienna pet day care collects donations for military dogs in Iraq.

It’s any dog’s dream. Sitting in a box in the front of Happy Tails Dog Spa in Tysons Corner are nearly 32 pounds of dog biscuits, along with a dozen knotted rope bones, 23 tennis balls, and a pound of dog treats.

"Every time I walk by, I can’t help looking at it," said Rebecca Meadows, day care staffer. "The dogs have taken notice of it too."

But soon the treats and toys will be packed away and shipped to Iraq, where they will be distributed among the military dogs in the K9 Unit in Camp Fallujah.

"Over there, they have eight dogs sharing the same toy," said Amy Nichols, Happy Tails founder. "We want to help out as many as we can."

Nichols has been conferring with Master Sgt. Chris Burgess, Operations Chief for the 2nd Military Police Battalion at Camp Fallujah, who sent a list of items requested by the dogs’ handlers for the dogs and also for themselves.

"FOR THE FOURTH of July, we always decorate the front of the building," said Nichols. "We thought, ‘What could we do extra?’ Then we thought, ‘Well, what is Independence Day about?’ I mean, where else in the world could you open a doggie day care? Who made this possible for us? The men overseas."

"And then we thought, there are dogs over there too, doing the jobs men can’t do. Men can’t sniff out bombs," said Nichols.

So Nichols and her colleagues sent out e-mails to various military bases and organizations asking what they could do to help. They connected with Burgess, and about a week ago, sent out a flier to Happy Tails customers announcing the drive.

"People have been calling nonstop," said Sarah Marcell, day care staffer. "One woman called from Mary Kay, wanting to donate sunscreen."

"Some customers come in with, literally, just bags of stuff," said Alex Bowens, business development associate at Happy Tails. "The response has been really good. People love to help but they really don’t know how to, so we provide an outlet."

IN AN E-MAIL to Nichols, Burgess requested milk bones, Frisbees, large knotted ropes, chew toys, and lip balm for the dogs’ noses. The dog handlers would also like sunflower seeds, sugarless gum, Red Bull, goldfish crackers and beef jerky, said Burgess. "We appreciate all the support that you are all providing the troops and the dogs," he said in the e-mail.

Bowens is waiting to find out exactly how many military dogs are in Iraq right now. But Happy Tails would like to continue to provide donations throughout the summer, she said, especially now that other K-9 units have been contacting the dog spa by e-mail wondering if they had any extra supplies.

People also called to offer monetary donations, said Bowens, so she and her colleagues have been working with the United States Association of War Dogs to purchase equipment for the Iraq military dogs.

In the near future, said Nichols, Happy Tails will hold a charity dog wash, with proceeds going toward the equipment.

"They need cooling vests and Under Armor (t-shirts)," said Nichols. "That’s so interesting, because that’s what I heard the soldiers need. Dogs need it too."