Type the name James Hatch into any search engine and the results will yield dozens of articles about his history as a decorated Navy SEAL Special Warfare Operator. You can read all about the now famous mission during which he sustained a career-ending injury and nearly lost his life.
The details of that night, and how a military dog named Remco sacrificed himself for his fellow soldiers, are easy to find. Other links will provide the details of the day Hatch’s own dog, Spike was killed in the line of duty during yet another dangerous operation overseas.
You can learn a lot about James Hatch on the internet. But when you click onto his own website, spikesk9fund.org, you won’t find any of these details. What you will see is a brief and humble description of how his experiences working with incredible dogs like Remco and Spike inspired Hatch to create the non-profit charity, Spike’s K9 Fund. The details of his own heroism have been left out because to Hatch, they simply aren’t what’s important.
The 501c3 organization is dedicated to training and caring for K9 soldiers and K9 officers during their service and beyond. Donations to Spike’s K9 Fund are used to purchase safety equipment like ballistic vests and pay for veterinary care.
Once the dogs’ service has come to an end, the foundation works to guarantee that their retirement days are lived out in comfort. They raise funds to help defer the costs of expensive surgeries, medications or custom equipment to improve their quality of life. The mission of the Fund is to ensure that every K9 receives exactly what they need every time!
At least 20% of the K9 officers in the US currently serve without the protection of ballistic vests because their communities cannot afford them. Recently, Anderson Cooper made headlines when he donated his speaking engagement fee to Spike’s K9 Fund in order to provide ballistic vests to every K9 officer of the Norfolk, VA Police Department. The generous gift came in the wake of the tragic shooting death of K9 Krijger who likely would have survived his injuries had he been wearing a vest.
The K9 Krijger Ballistic Vest Campaign was created to honor his memory. The volunteers at Spike’s K9 Fund hope that the notoriety surrounding Krijger’s story will help promote awareness and spur more communities into action.
For those wanting to join the cause in their home area, Emily Soccino, Director of Operations for Spike’s K9 Fund has some suggestions. She recommends raising awareness via social media, approaching local businesses to sponsor events or provide donations. Businesses that pledge the entire cost of a vest will have their name embroidered on the vest and be sent a photo of the K9 they have helped. She also suggests that people donate their own time or other resources.
Soccino shared the stories of two of the most memorable dogs Spike’s K9 Fund helped. Woodan’s K9 handler asked for the Fund’s help in protecting his partner. His job involves participating in extremely dangerous classified government missions. Sadly, his first service dog was killed in action. He wanted to ensure that Woodan would not succumb to the same fate.
The volunteers at Spike’s K9 Fund collected donations to purchase Woodan the absolute top-of-the-line vest for his dangerous work. The vest is called “The Intruder” and is custom designed and created by K9 Storm, the company that provides all of the safety vests donated through the charity. The Intruder is lightweight and includes ballistic and stab protection, as well as sophisticated electronics to help Woodan and his entire team stay safe.
Soccino also recalled the touching success story of K9 officer Demis who was adopted by his handler after retirement. He had difficulty walking due to injuries sustained during his service. Demis’ veterinarian recommended a wheelchair, but his family could not afford the expensive piece of equipment. They reached out to Spike’s K9 Fund, who provided the money to fit Demis with a custom wheelchair designed and created by Eddie’s Wheels for Pets. As you can see below, his new wheels made a world of difference for Demis!
For those dogs not lucky enough to be adopted by their handlers or too damaged by combat to be re-homed at all, their future is uncertain. There is currently no clear protocol for these K9’s – no VA hospital or therapy program to alleviate their PTSD. Having worked with these types of dogs, Hatch cannot stand to see them tossed aside by the system. He told the Virginian Pilot:
These dogs put their life on the line for all of us. They deserve to be treated well after they’re no longer able to work.
One of Hatch’s dreams is to eventually build a kennel to house retired service dogs who cannot be adopted because of injuries they sustained during their service or behavioral issues stemming from the trauma they have endured. He has already scouted potential properties in Virginia Beach and enlisted the help of an architect to design the facility.
The incredible works of Spike’s K9 Fund are a testament to the dedication and fortitude of its founder and his team. Together they are working to create a world where K9 soldiers and officers are treated with the same dignity and respect shown to their human partners. There are many ways you can help advance their inspiring mission:
-Find out if the local police department in your community is in need of safety vests for their K9 officers and consider starting a campaign
-Spread the word via social media
-Donate to the cause
-Volunteer your time
Jimmy Hatch’s slogan for Spike’s K9 Fund is “Dogs saved me. My mission is to take care of them.” I think this is a sentiment all dog lovers can relate to in our own way.
H/T to military.com, stripes.com and The Virginian Pilot
Featured Image via K9 Storm