The U.S. Marine Riders motorcycle club drove to Ashland from all across the state last Saturday to honor Marine Cpl. Dustin Lee and his dog Lex at the Fourth Annual Military K-9 Benefit sponsored by Noseworthy Realty. The event raises money in Lee’s honor each year to benefit military and police K-9’s. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
August 29, 2012ASHLAND — Everything literally went to the dogs in Ashland last Saturday afternoon, as Noseworthy Realty sponsored their Fourth Annual Military K-9 Benefit to raise money to support service dogs who work in both the armed forces, and with state and local police departments.
Organizer Laurie Coffin said the idea for the benefit first came to her when she heard about Lex, a military dog whose handler, Marine Cpl. Dustin Lee, was fatally injured by an explosive device in Iraq in March of 2007. Though seriously injured himself, Lex devotedly laid on top of Lee, staying with him until other troops arrived.
Coffin said she had been devastated at that time by the recent loss of her horse, and when the newspaper in her lap fell open to the story of Lex and Lee, she knew she had found a new purpose.
"It was an angel's journey that took me here, and it's turned into all of this now," said Coffin.
"All of this" is an annual block party-style celebration with a classic car cruise by DJ "Denny Day," live music, a barbecue, raffles and a live demonstration by service dogs from Hanscom Air Force Base and local New Hampshire police departments. Proceeds from the day benefit police and military K-9's through the purchase of supplies, protective vests, and anything else the four-legged soldiers may need.
Coffin and her team of volunteers also collected donations of supplies from their "wish list," such as dog shampoo, tick repellent, toys and other items.
"We now make baby quilts for military wives left at home with babies, too, to show our support for them as their husbands are serving," Coffin said. "You wouldn't believe how much we can squeeze out of the money we raise each year."
Her group also provides respite vacations for active military members on leave. The men and women are invited to White Mountain resorts, where they can rest and enjoy time with their families.
"They supply their gas to get here, then we just spoil them for a while. They deserve it," said Coffin.
This year's event brought out a large crowd of people who enjoyed lunch in the shade as the band, Kid Jazz, performed. They toured the parking area, where the classic automobiles were on display, and also spent time placing tickets in bags for the wide variety of item being raffled.
At 2 p.m., the focus shifted to the lawn behind neighboring Northway Bank, where the K-9 demonstration was being held.
"I never miss this," said Ashland resident Phyliss Reitsma. "It's great to see what our military and police departments do to keep us all safe."
Besides Hanscom AFB, Plymouth Police Sgt. Derek Newcomb brought his new dog Bruder, Laconia officer Kevin Shortt had his department's new K-9, Jagger, and State Police officer Victor Muzzey brought his five-year veteran K-9, Kimo.
"We're here today to show people what we can do with our dogs, and how we do it," said Muzzey.
All three officers said the animals are valuable to their department in many ways, offering skills and capabilities that human beings simply do not possess, as well as protecting their handlers.
Like their human counterparts, K-9 dogs go through quarterly training sessions where they learn the basics of search procedures, reinforce past training, or go on to cross train in other areas as well.
"Bruder's main function right now is for tracking and searches but we'll be headed to drug school soon to train him in narcotics detection," said Newcomb.
The Plymouth Police Department does not have money in their budget to support the K-9 program, and Newcomb said events like last Saturday are important in helping them obtain supplies they need for their dog.
"We rely on donations from the community. Walmart donates quite a bit to the program, but this benefit really means a lot to us," said Newcomb.
One by one, the dogs took turns demonstrating their agility and capabilities to quell a dangerous suspect. They also impressed the crowd with their detection skills by finding "evidence" and indicating the presence of narcotics or an explosive device in a vehicle.
The U.S. Marine Riders motorcycle club was at the event, and Michael Gutermuth of Belmont said it was the story of Cpl. Lee and Lex that brought the group to Ashland that day.
"I'm not going to let a fellow Marine go forgotten, and that means Lex, as well," Gutermuth said.
Lex, too, has since passed away, but in an unprecedented move by the U.S. military, was allowed to spend his remaining years with Cpl. Lee's family. The event at Noseworthy Realty each year serves to honor their memory and support other K-9's and their handlers as they work to serve the nation or their communities.
Locally, people may also contribute to the Working Dog Foundation, which supplies protective vests for police K-9s in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. For more information on their program, call 234-1162 or visit their Web site at www.workingdog.org.