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Protecting the Dogs that Protect Us: An Interview with Jimmy Hatch of Spike’s K-9 Fund

 

Part of our mission at Rex Spec’s is to give back to organizations that keep our working dogs protected. Spike’s K-9 Fund is one of those organizations -- they provide protective equipment for military and law enforcement dogs serving our country. At Rex Specs, we're donating one pair of dog goggles to Spike's K-9 Fund for every 200 new Instagram followers we get between now and July 4th. If you aren’t already following us on Instagram (@rexspecsk9) -- check us out and follow us to help meet our goal and give back to this incredible organization!

We talked with Jimmy Hatch, the founder of Spike’s K-9 Fund, last week while he was in Boston. Hatch was a Navy SEAL for 22 years and has been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia among other places. You can donate to Spike’s K-9 fund directly at http://spikesk9fund.org.

Spike’s K-9 Fund has been an organization since 2014 -- how do you choose which dogs get your gear?
First, people approach us. We try to get our name out there, and so sometimes it ends up being word of mouth. And the second part is -- we create geographic campaigns where we try to raise awareness in a specific community. We had a police dog killed in the town I live in, and we created a campaign to try to raise interest in the public sphere about how the dogs are going to work without the proper equipment. So we created a campaign just in the towns that surround the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay area. We’re almost there -- we’ve got three or four dogs left that we’re doing fundraisers for. Our next campaign is in Ohio.

Anderson Cooper is one of your supporters and has helped you raise a lot of money. How did that come about?
He and I did an interview -- I was actually injured trying to rescue Bowe Bergdahl, the kid who’s been in the news a lot the past few years. So I did an interview with Anderson, and we became friends. When we lost the police dog in our community, I texted him and told him about it. He said, “Hey, I have a speech scheduled there, I’m going to donate my speaking fee.” Afterwards, he told me he wanted to represent my charity on Celebrity Jeopardy. I was so grateful. So we went to DC where it was filmed, and he didn’t win, but at the end he came over to talk with the volunteers that we brought. He said, “I’m sorry I didn’t win, but I’ll cut you a check for the other $40,000 that I would have been able to provide had I won.” So I really think highly of him, he’s a really good guy. He’s a very hard worker.

Your website says that dogs saved your life. Was it a specific incident, or do you mean that having dogs in the military in general saves lives?
There were several specific incidents where the military dogs found people laying in ambush waiting to kill us. The night that I got wounded, a dog named Remco found some guys waiting to kill us, and they shot him in the head. That’s the only way we knew they were there, and so he certainly saved our lives, mine in particular. I got shot right after that. If we had not known those guys were there, we’d be dead.

Photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard

How did the fund get named?
Spike, the dog that the fund is named for, was killed in Iraq in 2006 in a shoot through. We worked together for a couple years at that point. He was biting a bad guy, and I shot the bad guy and the bullet went through the bad guy and killed Spike. It was one of several things I had to work through when I got wounded [in 2009]. I was laying in a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling for a few weeks, and there was a lot of stuff that came up.

I’m actually in Boston right now to give a speech to the Boston Police Department. Not because I was a Navy SEAL and not because I was on the Bergdahl rescue, but because I really struggled afterwards. I was suicidal and struggled through some post trauma. Now I go and speak to police departments and fire departments and military groups about it.

Do you have dogs of your own?
I have four. I have a malinois, a Dutch shepard, a pitbull and a French bulldog.

How did you come to have such different types of dogs?
The first dog was a police dog that got cancer and could no longer work so we brought him in. That’s the malinois. The Dutch shepard was a puppy that came from Holland. My wife and I also always have at least one shelter dog, in this case it’s a pitbull. We lost a dog fairly recently, and I was used to having four dogs around, so we a got a French bulldog puppy. She’s a total pain, but I love her.

How many dogs has Spike’s K-9 Fund outfitted with Rex Specs?
We have outfitted so far 20 dogs with 20 pairs of donated Rex Specs. We’ve given those to special operations K-9’s that are deploying or are presently deployed and some other military K-9’s that are deploying -- they’re not special operations dogs, but they’re still military dogs -- and to a couple of police dogs.

What’s your take on the product? Do you think it should be in use by more law enforcement and military K-9’s?
I do, for sure. I wish that when I was deploying with dogs we’d have had them. They’re invaluable -- it saves the dogs from being injured, it saves them from getting dust in their eyes. Whenever you’re in the military and you have dogs in a combat situation, you’re around helicopters and the dust and rocks that are blowing around are significant. I remember kneeling down next to my dog and just trying to cover his eyes because the helicopter was landing and blowing around dust and sticks. So I wish we’d had them for sure.

The overall goal of Spike’s K-9 fund is to build a kennel for former working K-9’s. Can you tell me more about that dream?
I think some of the dogs that fall within the types of work I used to do, or even sometimes in police work, get exposed to enough violence that they’re difficult to place after they’re done with their work. Sometimes those dogs are dangerous or aggressive, and so sometimes they are put down or spend their life in a kennel running circles. So that’s our goal at some point -- build a kennel that we can bring those kinds of dogs into. We’ve homed a couple, and that’s great when I can re-home them and help people adjust to them. But the kennel is a long term thing, because for whatever it costs to build a kennel, I can put bullet proof vests on thousands of dogs. So that’s why it’s a long term goal for now.

Anything else you think people should know about Spike’s K-9 Fund?
There’s been six [working] dogs shot this year, I think, and five of them have died. The dogs are the bottom of the list when it comes time for budget stuff in municipalities. I’m alive because the dogs saved my life on multiple occasions, so it’s just my mission to take care of them as best I can. And of course, I need help from others to do that.

To donate directly to Spike’s K-9 Fund, visit http://spikesk9fund.org.


Photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard



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