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Honor For Military Working Dog

MA1 John Washington, MWD Renato and Veterinarian, CPT Michele Pfannenstiel

Military Working Dog (MWD) Renato served more than six months in combat alongside his handler and trainer Master at Arms First Class (MA1) John Washington. MWD Renato and MA1 Washington were stationed in Afghanistan and the 6-year-old German Shepherd was able to help "hit the enemy right in the wallet."

According to his handler, "MWD Renato was actually able to detect a few narcotics stashes that were out there. (The military) was able to determine that a lot of the Taliban war efforts are funded by narcotics. He was actually able to sniff some out, so we could burn the fields down."

Renato's main job was detecting narcotics as well as the enemy. During the war, the dog was used as the unit's first line of defense. "Particularly military working dogs supposedly are targeted animals," Washington said, "because if you take one of them out, you can actually potentially have the entire unit."

During his time in Afghanistan, temperatures in the country could at times soar to 140 degrees. Frequently, the canine found himself walking on burning hot sand and pavement. The four-legged soldier also had to dodge dangerous creatures, including the poisonous camel spider and the King Cobra snake.

For their heroic duties, the duo has been inducted into the New Jersey Veterinary Foundation's Animal Hall of Fame. In the foundation's 13 years of inductions, the two are the first military honorees. Washington feels very honored to have been selected. "Renato is a tireless worker and one of the sweetest Military Working Dogs I have ever had the pleasure of knowing," wrote nominating veterinarian, CPT Michele Pfannenstiel of Fort Monmouth.

Now that they have returned to the United States, Renato's training must continue. The German shepherd must remain sharp as they could be deployed at any time. "It's not so much me as it is, do they need him," explains Washington. "If they need him, I have to go."