The History of "Feed the Dawgs"
In 2009, The Dawgs Project aka Feed The Dawgs became official after three old “Nam Dawgs” started holding barbecues at the PMO/IMEF Military Working Dog Kennels at Camp Pendleton, now named Camp Cann, in March of 2008. Jon Hemp, one of the original “Nam Dawgs”, continued through the years to honor those that were current and prior MWD K9 handlers through Feed the Dawgs events along the West Coast, honoring the Fallen Handlers and MWDs, the history of their bonds, and sending care packages to those deployed.
On May 4, 2013, veteran Air Force Handler Luciano Aguilar attended his first feed. For him, it was like going home to family, back to the kennels which for many are the homes they say goodbye to forever when discharged. Needless to say, he hasn’t stopped attending or volunteering nonstop. The Dawgs Project became a way for him to not only honor those that were/are currently serving but also to hold onto the family that he once had in the kennels, even bringing many former and current dog handlers into the cause. When Jon started talking of officially retiring and no longer being at the helm of The Dawgs Project, Luciano immediately heard the call. He officially took over The Dawgs Project on October 26, 2018.
What no one knew at that time, was that on that very day Luciano went to his first Feed, May 4, 2013, USMC Corporal David M. Sonka and his Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC) Flex would lose their lives. David was in Farah Province on his second tour in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
At the reading of David’s will, his family quickly learned what Feed The Dawgs was and how much it meant to him. While stationed on the West Coast, David was able to attend two at 29 Palms, CA, and another at March Air Force Base, CA. The Dawgs Project meant so much to him that he wrote in his will to donate to it in the event of his passing.
David’s Gold Star family went above and beyond donating, and with Jon’s blessing started Rocky Mountain Dawgs Project in December of 2013 as a 501c3 charity, to honor their son’s legacy and dedication as a K9 handler in the military so more handlers would benefit in a larger area from the Feed The Dawgs events, and started a service dog program for veterans with PTSD.
On May 17, 2019, The Dawgs Project helped with the interment of MA1 Michael Brodsky at Arlington National Cemetery and held a Feed The Dawgs event afterward at Andrews AFB in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Dawgs Project, and of course Jon. During the Feed, Jon presented David’s father, Kevin, with the spatula that David used many years prior once he realized Jon’s “skills” and took over on the grill. It is now and forever will be “David’s Spatula” used by Kevin at events.
Talking during the Feed, Kevin and Luciano realized that they were wanting to take both Dawgs Projects in the same direction and by the next day decided to become one united group. Together, we have been the The Dawgs Project.
Together as one Dawgs Family, we have been able to serve the Military K9 community around the world. As of 1 January 2021, Kevin and his family have made the long and hard decision to hand over the reins completely to Luciano, entrusting him to help carry on the legacy and service that they have held in memory of David.
We will continue to say the names of our Fallen. We will continue to honor those handlers that have served and are currently serving. We are K9 family.