MANILA -- The average lifespan of a canine is around 10-13 years and an average K-9 will devote most of those years on duty, protecting humans.
But ironically, after rendering most of their life in priceless service, most of these four-legged heroes end up living the remainder of their days behind bars.
According to Sgt. Marlon Agena of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' K-9 unit, while the AFP will care for their retired furry partners until their time comes (i.e feed them, walk them, etc.), most of their life will be spent in a cage.
That was until Hound Haven, a non-profit organization committed to giving these tired heroes a chance at a second life, was built.
The 1,200-square-meter center is the first and only institutionalized organization in the Philippines that advocates and provides a retirement program for military and contract working dogs.
"After a dog is turned over to us, we will rehabilitate and socialize them until they are ready to be rehomed and adopted," Maxin Arcebal, CEO of Hound Haven, said.
"The Armed Forces of the Philippines is our official partner. We have already taken in several of their retirees. In the future, we hope to be able to partner with private agencies as well," she added.
Arcebal noted that there is currently no law or policy on the retirement of military and contract working dogs in the Philippines.
"We want to push for a policy that will require a working dog to retire upon reaching a certain age," she said.
According to Arcebral, an average K-9 works for 8-15 years. "That is almost their entire expectancy. In human years, it does not seem a lot, but in dog years, that's practically their entire life," she said.
"Worse, there are cases where contract working dogs, those handled by private agencies, are worked to the end of their life," she added.
Hound Haven is lobbying to create a public policy that will promote the transfer and adoption of working dogs at the end of their service, similar to Robby's Law in the United States (H.R. 5314).
Presently, the turnover process for military working dogs is long and arduous.
"K-9s are considered to be a personal protective equipment," Arcebal explained. "Besides geting the approval from the AFP for the dogs to be turned over to interested parties, they first have to be taken out of the army's budget by the Commission of Audit."
To date, Hound Haven has five former soldiers up for adoption: Chuchi, Chuchu, Fyt, Tootsie, and Ay-ay.
Chuchi, 3 and Chuchu, 8, served in the Philippine Army's recent operations in Marawi. The pair of Belgian Malinois was retired after their duty in Mindanao was over.
Tootsie, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois, and Fyt, a 10-year-old Dutch Shepard previously worked as explosive detection dogs.
Meanwhile, Ay-ay is a 6-year-old aspin tracker.
"She was part of the Army's aspin program," Jerome Arcebal, corporate secretary of Hound Haven, shared.
"They found that aspins were serviceable for a shorter length of time than other breeds. It's not that she doesnt follow commands; its just that Ay-ay would rather play or do other things," he added.
Apart from senior dogs, Hound Haven also takes in working dogs removed from service for health and behavioral reasons.
Lotto and Lupin, for example, were only a year old when they came to Hound Haven.
"Lotto was forcibly retired afer suffering from an injury while training for the ASEAN summit. His right forelimb had to be amputated," Arcebral shared.
Unlike Lotto, who was on his way to a stellar career in the Army if not for his fatal injury, Lupin, on the other hand, showed low potential. "Lupin did not pass the Army's dog school. But that, of course, does not mean he isn't smart," Arcebal clarified.
Both pups have already been adopted.
Apart from the mentioned adoptables, Hound Haven is also home to Chika, the very first K-9 turned over to the center.
The 11-year-old Belgian Malinois worked most of her life as an explosive detection dog.
"She was the K-9 tasked in keeping Boracay safe. Tourists have Chika to thank," Arcebal said.
After growing fond of the old girl, the team decided to give Chika a permanent home at the compound.
While she isn't up for adoption, you can still help give her the comfortable life she deserves through sponsorship.
Aside from adopting, dog lovers are welcome to sponsor dogs and shell out any donations to keep their operations running.
"We need all the help we can get," Addi de la cruz, chief marketing officer of Hound Haven, said. "Aside from adoption, you can donate, sponsor, and even volunteer."
Since Hound Haven's founding in 2016, several military dogs are finally living the life they were meant to -- as dogs.
After a life of selfless dedication, these heroes deserve what every canine longs for, the warmth of a home and the love of family. No amount of fame, prestigeous award, or medal could ever equal that. Hero they may be, they are after all, still man's best friend.
For more information you may visit www.houndhavenph.org.