Lost Mountain Group Finds Second Career For Retired Military Dogs As Veteran Pets | New
Andrew Keahon sent firm but gentle words of correction to Luna, a 4-year-old yellow Labrador, when they recently visited the North Fauquier Community Park. She was not over her puppy exuberance yet and wanted to swim after the ducks, play with other dogs, and introduce herself to the people and kids at the park.
Meanwhile, Chance, an 8-year-old black lab, was much more low-key. He just leaned against Keahon or lay down on the ground, getting up every now and then to watch the passers-by. As a retired military service dog, Chance’s puppy is long gone. (Chance and Luna’s names have been changed for this article, to protect their identities.)
Chance and Luna are part of the Lost Mountain Group, a local non-profit organization based in Delaplane. The group’s mission is to rehabilitate retired military working dogs and place them with veterans in need of a companion at no cost to the veteran.
Keahon, the dog owner and founder of the Lost Mountain group, retired as the K-9 manager for the DC Metro Police Department in 2018. He has worked with K-9 war heroes across the country and five years ago became an entrepreneur of the Ministry of Defense. , training K-9s for military and paramilitary personnel around the world. Keahon said, “In 2015, I became the program director of a high-level K-9 military unit, working specifically to ensure that K-9 handlers know about home-made explosives where they are deployed. . It’s different in each region because the explosives used are all they can find. I receive K-9 managers and their partners [dogs] before deploying.
He recalls: “One of my first students suffered serious injuries. His wife asked him if it was possible to find him a retired military dog during his long rehabilitation.
This became the catalyst for Lost Mountain Group. “One thing led to another, and I have been contacted by more and more people asking for a retired service dog as a veteran companion,” he added. Since that initial placement, Keahon has found homes for more than 20 retired military working dogs.
It wasn’t until recently that Keahon found himself working with Labradors. “Most military working dogs are German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois.” He explained that these dogs are dual-use and can both bite and sniff, while Labrador Retrievers, with weaker bites, are single-use drug or bomb-sniffer dogs.
Luna worked at a government facility, sniffing inbound deliveries and mail, but failed her latest recertification. “She just wanted to be a pet,” Keahon said. “There are dogs who work all the time. I have had dogs that, at the end of the working day, come home and sniff all the cupboards in my house for bombs; they just couldn’t stop working. Luna was not like that.
“Chance, on the other hand, was a bomb lab who came to us after being injured by an IED while on duty in 2016,” Keahon said. “He has been with us since he retired medically.
While a working dog, Chance was paired with a new partner every six months. In retirement, however, “He bonded very quickly with our oldest daughter, Emma,” Keahon said.
Keahon runs the Lost Mountain Group from his family’s 25-acre Delaplane Farm. His wife Dorry and two daughters, Kylee and Emma, each play a role in the organization. “My daughters handle all the production of social media content and help take care of the dogs. My wife has also spent countless thousands of compassionate hours caring for all the dogs and fell in love with many of them. It breaks her heart sometimes to see them go, ”said Keahon, head of dog rehabilitation.
Marketing and Business Development Director Kati Townsley lives in Maryland. “She has taken on many roles to expand the reach of Lost Mountain Group,” he added.
Finding dogs is no challenge for Keahon. The country’s largest kennel is at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where all TSA and Army service dogs are stationed, before and after deployment.
This is also where dogs that fail in training or are deemed unfit to complete their service are sent to await adoption, which Keahon says can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years. In his role as an entrepreneur with the DOD, Keahon can adopt the dogs directly from their training facility into the Lost Mountain Group program, just as he did with Luna.
For injured dogs, like Chance, Lost Mountain Group will cover all medical expenses for the rest of the dog’s life. “We will never pass expenses on to a veteran,” Keahon said.
Keahon seeks to establish community partnerships with local groups serving veterans and / or animals. “Some of our veterans have young children. We are unable to place some of the retired dogs in homes with children. A relationship with one of our local shelters would help us find the right dog for each family.