The latest town hall gathering was a hodgepodge of mixed feelings and fiery emotions. At one point, Representative C. Stewart threatened he would leave the meeting if the room didn’t quiet down.
In the middle of the Trump-bashing and gun control debate, something happened that miraculously brought everyone together.
Mazzie and Geli, two canines that served in Kuwait, were introduced by Stewart, and the roaring crowd quieted down in awe. The two German shepherds stood shy and somber as the commotion died down and everyone turned their attention to the real dogs of war.
Dogs like them were often abandoned in the war zones or even euthanized, Stweart said, because no one saw fit to cash out the $2,000 needed to ship them home. These are no ordinary dogs, he continued, they helped save the lives of Americans and are more than deserving of humane treatment.
The dogs that were shipped back have found it hard to readjust to life as the trauma they went true was just as real as that of the soldiers.
Two war veterans who were present at the meeting stood and gave sharp salutes to the canines that perhaps understood them more than any other humans in the room. The audience finally united and broke into a standing ovation.
The Crismer couple, who adopted the war dogs, commented that this was not the first time Mazzie and Geli brought people together. Though Jim and Linda are retired, they said, the pooches still helped save lives. They take them to school assemblies, veteran gatherings and to visit ill people, and they touch the hearts of everyone they meet without fail.
Linda Crismer was a 4th-grade elementary school teacher before retiring, and she often spoke to her students about “contract dogs.” It was a public secret that they were abandoned in kennels after doing their part in the military action when they were no longer of use. Once the military and the contractors no longer needed them, they’d be left with hardly any human interaction or medical care.
It was the children who gave her the idea that she should get a contract dog upon retiring since she’d have free time and felt for them so much. The couple thought it was a splendid idea and went to Mission K9 Rescue, an NGO in Texas.
Mazzie was the first dog adopted by the couple, and she was deeply traumatized while serving abroad. He was most likely a dog used for sniffing out drugs, and all they knew was that he’d been in Kuwait. The other obvious thing was the neglect the dog had clearly suffered when his service ended. He was underfed, and the foster home he was temporarily in hadn’t brought the dog’s spirits back up.
At first, Mazzie wouldn’t leave the crate he came in; he didn’t want to sleep in the comfortable dog bed they got him or go any further than the garage door. He cowered constantly, tail between legs as though perpetually awaiting punishment.
The couple then decided to reach out to former County Sheriff J. Varela, who now runs a business that trains dogs. As he’d been a police dog trainer, he was well equipped to help Mazzie.
Mazzie was rehabilitated there for about six months, and Varela told the couple that he’d never worked with such a damaged dog.
Now, Mazzie is finally acting like a dog ought to — scampering around, playing, and having fun. He also gets along with Geli, who also needed help to readjust, though he didn’t need as much time.
They’re finally safe, the couple said, though they’re still apprehensive around strangers.
One of Mazzie’s first outings was to a pet-friendly store, and he wore a special vest that identified him as an ex war dog. A Vietnam veteran was also in the store, and he stopped when he saw the dog.
The old man got down on his knees and held Mazzzie’s face in his hands, the couple recalled. He spoke to Mazzie and told him that he also knew what it’s like to be treated badly in a foreign country. The veteran then told the dog that he was safe now for the end of his days.
This was just the first time the Crismers realized the war dogs and war veterans had an immediate and special bond. When they recently passed buy a motorcycle veteran rally, the dogs and veterans once again shared moments of silent understanding.
It’s like they have a language of their own, the couple remarked.
Everything took off from there. Recently, the dogs were in a veteran’s parade atop a float in Colorado Springs, alongside other retired dog-veterans. Jim Crismer shared that a retired marine even walked up to the float and said that the dogs up there had saved his life.
Mazzie and Geli touched so many veterans it was at first beyond comprehension. One veteran donated his sergeant stripes to Mazzie in return for the dogs’ vest. Thereafter, his wife gave her Air Force stripes to dog-veteran Geli. And it didn’t end there. The veteran returned a bit later and brought his POW and MIA bracelets he’d kept as mementos of his deceased comrades. He passed them on to Mazzie and Geli, who now wear them on their vests.
The two pooches have also been adopted in the American Legion as well as the Vietnam Veterans Association (Utah chapter). They continue going to many events and receiving many honors.
Mazzie, specifically, has recently received a truly special honor — he is to be the model for a statue in Leyton. This city in Utah has a Vietnam War Memorial replica and honoring all the fallen war dogs with a statue will be its newest addition. Statistics say that around 4,000 contract dogs were abandoned after the Vietnam war; this is a way to try to rectify that injustice. There’s even a Mazzie Facebook fundraising page to help aid the project.
But not just veterans’ hearts are touched by the kind canines. Even civilians walk up to them, crying and hugging them when they realize what the dogs have been through. Many people have family members or friends who have gone to war, so it’s no wonder the dogs pull on their heart strings. Needless to say, school children adore them.
Perhaps the most heartfelt visit Mazzie has made was when they went to Colorado to meet a woman suffering from cancer. All she wanted to do before passing away was to meet Mazzie, and she felt her life was complete because of this. The woman subsequently changed her will, leaving money to the NGO that saved the dogs.
Mazzie and Geli eventually met Stewart, who himself is a veteran, at one of those events. As the Representative is a part of the House Appropriations Committee, he was open to hear what the Utah couple had to say.
At the time, the Crismers found out about an abandoned war dog who was stranded in Korea because there was no money for it. The law states that the dogs must be returned to their handlers, but too many people just ignored this due to lack of funds.
However, Stewart reacted immediately. Within a week, he arranged to have $200,000 per year allotted to helping war dogs. He helped pass this amendment within two-weeks time, even though he was a Republican in a Democrat-controlled House.
So Mazzie and Gillie truly did the unfathomable — they united the Republicans and Democrats, and the Senate approved the demand in no time. The NGOs were able to promptly help get more military dogs back home.
Stewart clearly stated that allocating this money was the least they could do for dogs that help heal people even in retirement.
At the meeting, he pointed at the Crismers, calling them “heroes” and thanking them for all they’ve done for the dogs that have made it through the hell of war.