STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
An old saying goes that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Sometimes, that saying is attributed to Harry Truman. And though he may never have actually said it, he probably should have. Yesterday, some friendly dogs appeared in the United States Capitol. NPR's David Welna has this report.
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: A chocolate Labrador named Cila, who's been on close to 100 missions in Iraq, sits panting in a crowded, congressional hearing room. She's one of five war dog veterans attending this event, entitled Military Dogs Take the Hill. It's being put on by the American Humane Association. Robin Ganzert is the group's president.
ROBIN GANZERT: It is a dog day of summer, that's for sure. For us, it's a hero dog day of summer. It's a different way that we like to celebrate.
WELNA: Many people think that this Hill has gone to the dogs, but apparently the dogs have gone to the Hill.
GANZERT: That's exactly right. And they're going to take it over today and make sure their voice is heard.
WELNA: Through advocates such as Ganzert, of course. She's glad Congress passed a law last year saying the military may bring back its working dogs to the U.S. to be reunited with their handlers. But that law does not say they must be brought back.
GANZERT: We're suggesting, today, that an easy solution - so very easy - is just to mandate that the dogs are returned to U.S. soil before they're retired. And then, of course, these wonderful groups that we work with can work with the military to make sure the dogs are reunited.
WELNA: Several House members are on hand to show their support. Nevada Democrat Dina Titus recalls the key role dogs played when she served as a state legislator.
REPRESENTATIVE DINA TITUS: We always had a rule; if you wanted to get your bill passed, just show up with a dog. That always won people's hearts over. So I think we're in pretty good shape here.
RUDY RIDPATH: Where are you going? Where are you going? You want to lay down? Are you tired?
WELNA: That's Ruby Ridpath with her dog Carlos. He's a yellow Lab who specialized in sniffing out explosives during five years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three years ago, Ridpath learned from an Air Force captain in Kabul that Carlos was being retired.
RIDPATH: And I said, bring him home. Three words, that's all it took. Bring him home.
WELNA: Ridpath considers Carlos a vet, not a pet. She thinks he deserves more help from the government he served.
RIDPATH: I'd like to see that there be some medical assistance because for Carlos, I've spent almost $10,000 in medical costs for him. He's been worth every penny, but it's quite excessive at times.
WELNA: Others want to see more of an effort made to reunite war dogs with their handlers. Kristin Maurer heads Mission Canine Rescue, a group that helps such handlers when they come back without their dogs.
KRISTIN MAURER: They all ask me the same thing. They say, can you help me get my dog? The words are not what strikes me. It's their tone of voice, almost a desperation.
WELNA: One such handler is a Marine vet named Deano Miller, who was in Afghanistan four years ago with a yellow Lab named Thor.
DEANO MILLER: He'd never leave my side. He was never on leash. He was never in a kennel. He was always just - I didn't have to worry about that. He didn't leave me.
WELNA: But Miller had to leave Thor behind at the end of his tour.
MILLER: So I had to wait three and a half years for him, but I'd wait more if I had to. I even told them - I was like, if he's 10 years old and has one leg, I'll still take him. And they used to think I was joking, but I was serious.
WELNA: In May, the two were reunited.
MILLER: Everything's a lot better now at home. And it wouldn't be possible if I didn't have him.
WELNA: Miller says his shadow has come back. David Welna. NPR News, the Capitol.