Natural Balance Outdoes Itself with 2013 Rose Parade Float; Honors Armed Forces Canines

Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance really knows how to push the marker…. First they got their spokes-dog, Tillman, the super-famous skateboarding Bulldog, to become an honorary member of the canine armed forces (Honorary Private 1stClass Marine), then they, in partnership with Petco and Maddie’s Fund, worked for over seven years to get a national monument made honoring canine members of the armed forces.

The Natural Balance Rose Parade Float

But for all intensive purposes, what I’ll be talking about now is the fabulous float they had a hand in creating for the 2013 Tournament of the Roses Parade in Pasadena, California and their efforts toward the latter.

I was lucky enough to get to go to the parade with the company and see the float, and had the chance to interview several members of the armed forces, both human and canine! It was spectacular. This is one amazing company doing some amazing things…

After talking with Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham and Lucca, a German Shepherd, from the Marines, and then with Sergeant First Class Charles Shuck and his search dog Gabe, a Yellow Labrador Retriever, from the Army, I was dually impressed.

Lucca lost a leg saving Willingham’s life from an IED, and Gabe had over 25 explosives finds in Iraq in 2007, the record for


any dog in the military that year. Both Willingham and Shuck seem as dedicated and in love with their dogs as any non-military human who just flat-out is in love with their dog. In fact, Willingham NEARLY got choked up talking about how many times Lucca saved his life and the amazing (either 6 or 8) years of service she gave before retiring. Now Lucca just loves to go belly up and get scratches I quickly learned, and she also loves to play with her Kong. Gabe’s favorite past time nowadays is waiting patiently for Shuck to tell him to eat a treat! Shuck will put a treat on the ground and Gabe will just stare at it until Shuck tells him its okay!

Aside from celebrating these national heroes – the men and the dogs – Natural Balance is taking part in a bigger mission. A mission to get a Military Working Dog National Monument built in Texas.


The float in the parade was a floral replica of the bronze and granite United States Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, to be dedicated in late 2013 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. It was prominently displayed beneath lush orchid-laced cherry trees. Flowing floral flags of America’s armed-service branches; U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard are proudly displayed as a background to the monument.

Featured on the monument are (left to right) the Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and Belgian Malinois.

This is the first time in the history of the US military that an animal, a dog, has been elevated to National Monument status by U.S. Congressional Law.

Planned Monument

John Burnam, a former Vietnam War dog handler, founded the National Monument and orchestrated its design. (He is pictured at left.)

Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc., Petco, and Maddie’s Fund are the Official Corporate Sponsors funding the National Monument project. The National Monument is solely funded by sponsor and citizens donations (zero tax dollars).

This is one spectacular company on one hell of a mission. I am honored that I got to be a part of their celebration in Pasadena this year. GO NATURAL BALANCE! Follow them online at @NaturalBalance on Twitter and here on Facebook.

** You can also follow Gabe, who was the American Humane Association Hero Dog of the Year in 2012, on Facebook here.

Planned Etching on Monument


One Response to “Natural Balance Outdoes Itself with 2013 Rose Parade Float; Honors Armed Forces Canines”

  1. Dr V says:

    It was so great to see you at this wonderful event! Happy New Year!

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