Connecting four-legged veterans to their fur-ever home

Jonathan Kaupanger
June 28, 2018 - 3:48 pm

Photo by K9 Hero Haven


It’s not often that you find both a veteran retirement home and adoption agency wrapped into one.  Once you hear about, K9 Hero Haven, it may make a little more sense.

Anne Gibbs adopted her first retired working dog seven years ago but quickly realized she had issues.  Which got her thinking that maybe her dog wasn't alone. So, she started a retirement home for difficult or medically retired military working dogs.  The first adoptions started in 2015.  Since then, Anne has placed 165 dogs in homes across the country.

 “Most of our dogs are placed with combat veterans,” says Gibbs, President and owner of K9 Hero Haven (K9HH).  "We’re pretty much a veteran to veteran based program.  We do occasionally adopt some dogs outside the program, but most of the dogs are placed with combat veterans or law enforcement families."

The dogs at Anne’s place are mainly Belgian Malinois but she also has German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds and occasionally receives Labs, Springers and Pointers, basically anything that’s used in the working dog line. Most of the dogs fit into two different age groups.  Some are between two and three years old and have been pulled from programs while others are 6 to 10 years old and have aged out of programs.

Most often the older dogs are harder to adopt out, in fact some of the older ones Anne just puts in the retirement home.  “If I went into a shelter to adopt I would definitely adopt an older dog versus a puppy,” Anne says.  “I love older dogs, now I’m at the point in my life where I’m way over puppies.  I find that age bracket the best dogs.  They’re already trained, you have to acclimate them to your house. There are some issues of adjustment, but they are the best dogs.  Loyal, obedient.  I just love that age bracket for energy level and everything and they bond very much with a person too.”

Photo by K9 Hero Haven

Anne suggests that when a person is looking at a younger dog, they remind themselves that they will have this dog for the next 10 to 15 years.  With older dogs, you’re realistically looking at maybe five more years at the most.

“We take dogs in at all different levels,” Anne says.  In addition to taking in aggressive dogs she's also welcomed dogs that were due to be euthanized because of their behavior issues.  She says it takes a lot of time, love and patience to get these dogs to the point where they can be adopted.  Some dogs though won’t ever be placed in a home because they just can’t adjust into society.

“People have to keep in mind that these were working dogs,” Anne says with a cautionary tone in her voice.  “Most dogs are what they call dual purpose dogs which are trained in patrol work and either drug or explosive detection.  If they are trained in a dual dog, they do have bite work.  When you adopt a dog like this, you have to keep in mind that this is the type of dog you are adopting.”  She says that when you take a dog in that’s been trained to apprehend, you have to watch things as simple as kids running around a yard screaming and yelling.  “They are used to ‘you run, I catch you,’” she says.  “They just have to give them time to adjust to being a dog!”

Photo by K9 Hero Haven

First step in adoption is fill out the application on the website. You can ask for a specific breed and sex of a dog, but then once approved Anne will pick out dogs she believes will fit in with your lifestyle.  Is there a fence or no fence?   If there’s children, what ages?  What size of a house?  Are they looking for a more active dog or an older dog that wants to be a couch potato?  “If you want to run five miles a day,” Anne says, “obviously I’m not going to suggest a medical dog that was just retired for you.”

You can get more information on K9 Hero Haven on Facebook too.  You can find tons of videos and pictures of Anne’s dogs.  If you see any that say “K9 Hero Haven adoption update,” those dogs have already been placed with families.

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