Courtesy of Sgt. Micah Jones
Staff Sgt. Summer actually had two immensely important jobs while she was deployed in Afghanistan in 2012. On patrols, the military working dog detected explosives and weapons, and back at the base, she was a valuable bright spot for soldiers during wartime.
"You can't put a number on it, on how many lives she saved," her handler, Sgt. Micah Jones, tells Daily Paws.
Over the course of her deployment, the Labrador retriever named Summer discovered "countless" caches of weapons and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that could've resulted in unknown American casualties. She risked her life in the process, and she was later diagnosed with canine PTSD. After retiring from the Marine Corps, she and Jones worked for Amtrak, where she did similar detection work before retiring this year.
"She still wants to work, to be honest with you," Jones says.
Summer, who's now 10 and lives in Maryland, has already earned two accolades for her dedicated and heroic service: the Lois K. Pope K-9 Medal of Courage (2018) and PDSA Commendation Award (2017).
She'll still play fetch with Jones before he heads off to work, a callback to her training. She was taught to fetch her squeaky "reward ball," Jones says. After she got good at it, her trainers scented the ball so it smelled like explosives, the danger she was tasked to find.
Summer excelled during her deployment, but her duties extended beyond patrols. Back at the base, she was a welcome sight for the worn service members, who could bend down and give her pets and love. Jones credits her for saving lives as a "morale booster."
"I'm just very proud of her," Jones says. "She's just a hero in my book."
At Amtrak, she also enjoyed meeting the traveling veterans and service members, sparking conversations about where they served and the dogs they served with. In retirement, she and Jones also visit Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in Maryland, where she offers plenty of love and pets.
We hardly need to convince anyone that Summer's a hero, but she's a finalist for the American Humane Hero Dog Award, representing the military category. You can meet all seven finalists Wednesday at 9 p.m. eastern time on Hallmark Drama.