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Connection Newspapers | Living with a K-9 Hero

By Connection Newspapers

Ken and Gail Gardner of Alexandria were the lucky couple who adopted a 12-year-old German Shepherd through the Baghdad Pups Program of SPCA International. They welcomed Blek, a retired Landmine Detection Dog into their home about a year ago. Blek was born in Texas where he spent his first two years in intensive training learning to detect the trace elements of numerous explosive chemical compounds used in anti-personnel and anti vehicle/tank land mines. Blek continued his training for an additional year located in the Netherlands where he advanced his detection skills and learned to respond to commands in Dutch language. Blek was then assigned to duty in Iraq and served there from 2004 through 2011 for a total of seven years actively identifying the location of various types of land mines and other unexploded ordnance. Blek performed detection duties in Basra, Baghdad and in northern Iraq.

The day Blek arrived in the Gardner home, he could not relax until he had sniffed in every nook and cranny to ensure the house was free of explosive material. Blek would growl if you reached toward his head as if to pet him. Ken immediately made an appointment for Blek at Hayfield Animal Hospital for a complete physical. His veterinarian said that he was obviously in pain. Blek’s dental condition required immediate action. She proceeded to extract 17 teeth and clean up his gums. Ken slept on the floor with Blek for three weeks keeping him clean while he recovered. Amazingly, Blek’s demeanor immediately changed to the gentle, friendly, tolerant, calm, disciplined creature so admired by his numerous fans at Ft. Ward Park. Blek has many “friends’ on his Facebook account, Blek MDD. The Gardner grandchildren quickly introduced Blek to the joys of a good bellyrub. Being a working dog his entire life, Blek is not interested in retirement. He sticks his nose in Ken’s ear at 5 a.m. each morning urging him to hurry up for a walk through the neighborhood to ensure no mines have been planted overnight. The neighbors joke that we live in the most mine-free area in Alexandria due to Blek’s surveillance.

Blek’s intelligence, desire to work and great discipline allowed him to quickly retrain as a certified Service Dog. The Gardners are honored to have a true K-9 hero like Blek as their companion.