The calendars, produced by members of Military Working Dog Team Support Association, display photographs of dogs and their handlers, including those from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
The project was spearheaded by Chan Follen, board member at-large whose 26-year-old brother, John Douangdara, a handler with the Special Warfare Unit, was killed, along with his dog, Bart, when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan Aug. 6, 2011, an event which killed 30 Americans, including nearly two dozen members of Navy Seal Team 6, the team that killed Osama bin Laden.
The 8½-inch by 11-inch wall calendars cost $18 and can be purchased at www.mwdtsa.org. President Dixie Whitman said the photographs are from some handlers they know or have served through the program and some were supplied by the Department of Defense, which gave authorization for the
“Many of the photos show the dogs and handlers together while they work on training and missions,” Whitman said.
Whitman said proceeds from the calendar will help with shipping expenses for military working dog team care packages and also go toward building a memorial to honor dog teams that have been killed in action in a Nebraska dog park named for Follen’s brother, the John Douangdara Memorial War Dog Park.
Follen, an inventory supervisor for a manufacturing plant in South Sioux City, Neb., said she was contacted by Whitman soon after her brother was killed. She said Whitman encouraged her to be a part of the association.
“The organization is very dear to my heart,” the 32-year-old said.
Follen said she feels like she is making a difference by helping other military working dog groups.
“I didn’t get a chance to support my brother when he was around,” Follen said. “He never wanted care packages. He always figured someone else needed it more than he did. It kind of filled a void of what I could have done for my brother.”
Whitman said the care packages average about $100 in value and typically contain donated items, including dog treats, KONG toys and coffee donated from Caribou Coffee, among other supplies for the dog handlers like hand warmers and packaged foods.
Woodstock Caribou Coffee Store Manager Jacqui Sands said her store has had customers purchase over 500 pounds of coffee to donate to the cause.
Whitman said those looking to give the calendar as a gift for the holidays should not wait much longer to allow time for shipping.
“They’re absolutely gorgeous,” Whitman said. “Anybody who likes dogs and the military would really appreciate this calendar.”
Follen said all dog lovers will enjoy the calendar.
“It’s not just for people that support military, we see a lot of animal lovers supporting them as well because know on the dogs are on the front lines and risking lives for their handlers,” Follen said.
Additionally, the online store sells T-shirts for $19.95.
Whitman said she has no set goal in mind of how much she would like to raise from the calendars, but all purchases and donations help toward the organization’s various goals.
Follen, who said she spends all her free time dedicated to the organization, said it is her passion to make sure MWDTSA is successful.
“Getting involved with dog handlers and dogs helped me grieve and it’s also supporting what my brother loved to do,” Follen said.
For more information about John Douangdara and the Nebraska dog park, visit www.inmemoryofjohn.com. To order the calendars, visit www.mwdtsa.org.