Four retired military dogs receive K-9 Medal of Courage
© Beth Caldwell for American Humane

Four retired military dogs were honored at a Capitol Hill ceremony Tuesday when they were each awarded the K-9 Medal of Courage.

The medals were presented to Military Working Dog Emmie, Military Working Dog K-9 Niko, Military Working Dog Troll and Explosive Detection Dog Sgt. Yeager.

Emmie, a 12-year-old black Lab, worked in Afghanistan detecting improvised explosive devices. After returning to the U.S., Emmie searched cars and buildings at the Pentagon as part of the Pentagon Police Explosive Detector Dog team with handler Eric Harris, who said she now helps his autistic son.

While in Afghanistan, Niko cleared routes for advance teams, sweeping houses before high-level meetings and searching vehicles. The 10-year-old Dutch shepherd now lives in Alaska.

Troll, a 12-year-old Dutch shepherd, detected three explosive devices during a four-day air assault mission in Afghanistan in 2012, helping save the lives of 65 service members. When a soldier was critically wounded on the mission, Troll helped clear a landing area for a medevac helicopter that was able to safely evacuate the soldier.

Yeager, a 13-year-old black Lab, participated in more than 100 patrols in both Iraq and Afghanistan, helping clear routes for the Marines. On April 12, 2012, an explosion killed his handler, Marine Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, and injured one of Yeager’s ears. He was later adopted by a Marine Corps family.

The first American Humane Lois Pope LIFE K-9 Medal of Courage was awarded in 2016 and named after philanthropist Lois Pope, the widow of National Enquirer founder Generoso Pope Jr. The medal has been awarded to more than a dozen military dogs.

In addition to Pope, other attendees at Tuesday’s ceremony included Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the co-chairmen of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus.

“Military working dogs are invaluable members of their units,” Cuellar said. “Their deeds deserve recognition, their names deserve to be heard and their service remembered.”

Bilirakis said he considers it "a moral responsibility to support America’s veterans and military working dogs, both during their service and in retirement.”

“It’s an honor to be here in support of our nation’s heroes, on both ends of the leash,” Bilirakis said.