A Lambertville military mom hopes to provide protective gear to overseas U.S. military dogs by embarking on the same online fund-raising venture that financed a new weight room for Bedford High School students.
Tracy Spader has organized a $25,000 proposal for the Pepsi Refresh Project that would outfit 62 military working dogs with cooling vests and eye, paw, and ear protection so the animals can better withstand Afghanistan's heat and terrain.
The vests would help keep the dogs from overheating, allowing them to perform their war zone duties longer and more efficiently - and save more soldiers' lives.
"These dogs do a whole lot for our sons and daughters out there," said Mrs. Spader, whose 24-year-old son, Brandon Spader, is a first lieutenant in the Air Force. "They are kind of like the unsung heros of the military."
The Refresh Project awards monthly grants to organizations with "refreshing" project ideas that have a positive impact. Proposals compete for Web users' online votes, and winners get the money.
Mule Muscle Inc., a nonprofit group that supports facilities and athletic equipment for Bedford Public Schools, recently won the contest's $250,000 top prize for its bid to build a new weight room on the high school's campus.
The groundbreaking happened last week, and the room is to open by early next year.
Inspired by Mule Muscle's success, Mrs. Spader created a Pepsi proposal for her own pet project.
If it wins, the $25,000 would go to the Ohio nonprofit group Support
MilitaryWorkingDogs.org, which has outfitted 239 U.S. military working dogs in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2008 by raising donations, according to its founder, Starline Nunley.
Ms. Nunley started outfitting dogs after her son, U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Parker Frawley, 37, told her while stationed in Iraq that the dogs couldn't work for much more than an hour in the intense heat.
Some were suffering heat stroke and even dying.
Dogs have a rich history of military involvement going back to antiquity. In the modern armed forces, dogs are used for a variety of tasks, including bomb sniffing, search and rescue, sentry, and scouting.
The Refresh Project grant would purchase body-chilling vests, in addition to paw protectors, ear protectors, dog goggles ("doggles"), and collapsible food and water bowls.
The chilling vests are extremely important because when dogs get too hot and start panting heavily, it inhibits their ability to smell, putting servicemen and women at risk of danger, Ms. Nunley said.
"They have never developed a machine yet that can sniff out odors like a dog can," she said.
Mrs. Spader learned about military dogs through her son in the Air Force. Earlier this year, she adopted a retired Transportation Security Administration bomb-sniffing Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
She came across Ms. Nunley's Web site, and volunteered to help the cause by mounting a Refresh Project effort.
To win a Pepsi grant, her military dogs proposal must be among the top 10 vote-getting projects when voting ends Oct. 31.
Voting takes place on the Refresh Project's Web site, refresheverything.com/helpmilitaryworkingdogs
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