To Anthony Jerone, dogs are more than just man’s best friend. They are heroes.
A former K-9 Corps specialist, Jerone, 63, of College Point, trained military dogs to sniff out mines, booby traps and ambushes in Vietnam in the late 60s.
“Everything depended on that dog’s nose,” Jerone said.
The canines, he said, could have alerted troops of danger from up to 700 meters away. An early, silent warning — a nose bob or simply sitting in place — saved thousands of lives, Jerone said, including his own.
One heroic hound, Jerone recalled, far exceeded the call of duty.
The tunnel dog — trained to detect depths or hidden holes in the ground where enemies were often concealed — warned him of a trap door, which Jerone said prepared him for a looming attack by a female Vietnamese soldier bearing two grenades with no pins. The tunnel then ultimately led to the capture of one of the top most wanted Vietcong strategists, said Jerone.
The canine was promoted from private first class to corporal, while Jerone was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
“I owe it to those dogs,” said Jerone. “[If it weren’t for] those dogs, I wouldn’t be here.”
In honor of the courageous canines, Jerone has been hosting a free “doggie boot camp” program every Saturday at Crocheron Park since 1968. He has helped over 44,000 dogs so far, he said.
The program teaches problematic dogs — some from local homes and many from shelters — how to socialize, heel and sit. Sessions take place from 1 to 4 p.m. and are ongoing until Thanksgiving, weather permitting.
“This is my way of paying back the dogs that saved me,” Jerone said.