Animal shelter honors military working dogs with memorial

A tribute to military dogs stands on the lawn of an animal shelter in Encinitas.

When it was built 11 years ago, the Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Military Working Dog Memorial was billed as the only such private memorial west of the Mississippi River. It is still considered unique, but few people outside the community know about it.

But the people who do it, cherish it. The bricks that surround the memorial pay tribute to local pets, people and groups.

The idea of ​​the memorial is to honor the canine heroes who save the lives of service members and encourage their adoption when they retire.

The memorial consists of a life-size granite sculpture of a 12-year-old German Shepherd, known as Chyba, who served as a US Army military patrol and security police dog in Kuwait and Germany.

Chyba came to San Diego to be adopted by Madeleine Pickens and late American business mogul T. Boone Pickens over a decade ago.

The president of the Rancho Coastal Humane Society was invited to escort Chyba to Washington, DC, with the couple and toured Arlington National Cemetery with other military working dogs and their handlers.

The sculpture rests on a 4 foot by nearly 4 foot high granite slab engraved with the emblems of various branches of the military.

Engraved on top of the statue are the words “Rancho Coastal Humane Society Proudly Honors the Military Working Dog.”

The statue is dedicated to “all military working dogs and their handlers, past, present and future, your deeds and sacrifices will always be remembered.”

The memorial stands in a paved area of ​​the shelter’s dog park, called Cricket’s Corner Community Dog Park, on the shelter’s campus at 389 Requeza St.

The nonprofit animal shelter plans to redesign the area so that the tribute bricks will be engraved with personalized messages on a memorial wall, which will surround the statue. This will allow the bricks to avoid erosion by the elements.

The nonprofit also plans to incorporate raised gardens, ambient lighting and a flagstone patio into the space surrounding the memorial to encourage outdoor gatherings. The renovation is part of the campus expansion, which is expected to begin this fall.

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Bette C. Alvarado