'K-9 Warriors' author, Navy SEAL to visit Purdue, deliver Discovery Lecture

September 5, 2014  

Mike Ritland

Mike Ritland 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Mike Ritland has trained hundreds of working dogs, specializing in K-9 training for military, special operations forces and law enforcement uses - all grounded in his experiences in the line of fire as a U.S. Navy SEAL during the Iraqi conflict.

The military veteran and best-selling author will bring his message about the powerful bond between human and animal to the Purdue University campus for the Discovery Lecture Series at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 11, at Stewart Center's Fowler Hall. The talk is titled "Trident K9 Warriors."

Ritland, the author of "Trident K-9 Warriors: My Tale from the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines," will bring one of his working trained dogs. He also will speak at the 2014 Purdue Veterinary Medicine fall conference.

"Military working dogs as well as their counterparts in law enforcement are highly regarded by veterinary professionals who understand the strength and dedication of these special animals," said Dr. Willie M. Reed, dean of the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine. "And focusing on their unique service to our country is especially fitting on September 11."

The College of Veterinary Medicine and Discovery Park are joining the Lilly Endowment as primary sponsors of Ritland's talk. Through a $1 million gift to Discovery Park from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, Purdue launched the Discovery Lecture Series in 2006 to bring prominent speakers to campus.

"We usually think of our dogs as loving household pets, but special dogs have returned from combat zones to heal, while others are being trained to keep people safe," said Ritland, who is making his first trip to Purdue.

"It's impossible to quantify how many of our forces have been saved by these dogs. Without a doubt, it's in the thousands. It never ceases to amaze me the impact these animals have on our soldiers. We owe absolutely everything we can give these dogs for what they've done for us."

Ritland, who served 12 years active duty as a Navy SEAL and is a disabled combat veteran, said he's honored to be able to speak on 9/11.

"9/11 is a very profound day for me - personally, emotionally," he said. "Several of my close friends were killed in Afghanistan … and the instability in that region continues even today.

"We are reminded of the very real evil we face daily and the role that our U.S. Special Ops plays. In my talk, I hope to relay that and the gravity of what 9/11 means as a nation and our western society, especially for our younger generation. I'm very pleased and honored to be a part of this event at Purdue."

Book jacket warriors

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Growing up in Waterloo, Iowa, Ritland joined the Navy at age 17 after being inspired by his grandfathers - both of whom served in World War II - and fascinated by an article about the challenge of SEAL training in Popular Mechanics magazine.

He graduated with BUD/S class 215 and became a member of SEAL Team 3. Ritland's 16-member SEAL Team was deployed to Iraq along with the First Marine Division in April 2003, tasked with taking the city of Tikrit.

During a clearing operation, he observed a group of Marines approaching a cave-like structure in a rural area outside the city. After searching thousands of buildings and similar structures without issue, the temptation was to assume all was clear. But the platoon was alerted to danger by an explosive-detector dog.

Ritland later learned that a grenade booby trap, which had been set in the doorway, would have killed the first Marines to enter. Instantly, he knew he wanted to work with dogs, harnessing their remarkable abilities to defeat the tools of modern warfare.

After his stint as a U.S. Navy SEAL, Ritland became a BUD/S instructor and started his own company, Trikos International, in Cooper, Texas, to train dogs for the SEAL teams.

Today he continues to supply working and protection dogs to a host of clients, including the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs, Border Patrol, TSA and the Department of Defense. He has trained hundreds of working dogs, and has over 15 years of experience in importing, breeding, raising and training multiple breeds of working dogs.

He founded the Warrior Dog Foundation, a nonprofit Special Operations K-9 retirement foundation, to serve as a rehab facility for war-scarred dogs. It's also a place where other dogs are trained to replace their predecessors on the battlefield, to work with police or to be with families who want a pet and protection.

Proceeds from Ritland's book are being donated to the Warrior Dog Foundation. In addition, the foundation is looking to establish a scholarship fund for families of handlers who are wounded or killed. A living memorial and museum for Special Operations Forces K-9s also is planned to showcase the talents and awards received in combat operations in support of the U.S. military. 

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Source: Willie Reed, 765-494-7608, wreed@purdue.edu

Related Video:

60 Minutes segment: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50145340n

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