By DEBRA LANDIS
Danny Scheurer says he and Nero, a nearly 100-pound German shepherd, are both military veterans with disabilities.
On Friday, Scheurer and Nero met Illinois State Fair patrons at an Illinois Humane exhibit in Conservation World. Scheurer discussed roles U.S. military dogs have played around the world and told the public about Save-A-Vet, which helps dogs injured on military or law enforcement duty.
Scheurer founded Save-A-Vet after returning home to Illinois with disabilities sustained while serving in Iraq.
Headquartered in Lindenhurst, Save-A-Vet accepts dogs the government won’t place with the general public because of concerns over how the dogs might adapt to their new surroundings.
Nero, who suffered back injuries in the Mideast, was one of those dogs -- until Scheurer got a call last October asking whether he’d take Nero.
“We’re buddies. We travel together for Save-A-Vet,” Scheurer said. He and Nero visit legislatures, veterans groups, schools and other organizations to promote Save-A-Vet.
The group has three objectives: Create facilities in every state for “our K-9 partners”; hire retired, injured or disabled law enforcement and military veterans to work in the facilities; and work to have the dogs “classified as veterans rather than equipment.”
“A military dog saved my life twice when I was in Iraq,” Scheurer said about bomb-sniffing canines. “In one of the situations, about 1,000 soldiers would have been killed had it not been for the work of that military dog.”
Save-A-Vet has been able to accept seven dogs so far. More could be adopted with enough support, said Scheurer.
The military is doing a good job in working with members of the public interested in adopting military and law enforcement dogs, he said. But many, like Nero, can’t be placed in typical households.
Nero, who has lived with Scheurer for nearly a year, adapted relatively quickly to his new home, although on walks, Nero still thinks he is working, walking side-to-side as he did searching for bombs, Scheurer said.
Nero has also made friends with Scheurer’s family and friends, including two veterans who alternate weeks bringing Nero gifts of chicken and steak.
Working dogs even show some similar symptoms as human veterans, Scheurer said. Nero, for instance, often wakes up at night crying and moving about, he said.
Jane McBride, president of Illinois Humane, said her organization wanted to help raise awareness about Save-A-Vet as well as about opportunities for the public to adopt dogs from the military.
Save-A-Vet will be at the Illinois Humane exhibit through Sunday.
Debra Landis can be reached through the Metro Desk at 788-1517.