Ruff work: Check out pooches with professions on National Dog Day

August 26th marks National Dog Day, an annual holiday founded by pet expert Colleen Paige to publicly recognize the important roles pooches have in our lives — and the many dogs that are still in need of happy homes.

After all, dogs are not just fair weather friends. Over the years, they've risked their lives to save ours and proven to be therapeutic companions capable of sniffing out danger (and pirated DVDs!) with their noses. They're a part of our police forces and, in a few cases, our local (albeit unofficial) governments. Sometimes, they even have a knack for painting — and raising money for charity.

Let’s face it: Every day should be a celebration of man’s best friend, but to honor them on this special holiday, take a look at dogs and the many amazing jobs they perform to make our lives better.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Image: A Belarussian military instructor trains her dog in a frontier guards' cynology centre near the town of Smorgon

    Ruff work: Dogs with jobs

    Dogs are man’s best friend and, sometimes, his most faithful colleague. From dogs who jump out of planes with anti-terrorism forces to rescue pups who travel through snow and water to save lives, take a look at some of the ways our four-legged friends contribute to society while on the job.

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    Ruff work: Dogs with jobs -

    Dogs are man’s best friend and, sometimes, his most faithful colleague. From dogs who jump out of planes with terrorist-fighting forces to rescue pups who travel through snow and water to save lives, take a look at some of the ways our four-legged friends contribute to society on the job.

    Artist Dee Dee Murry taught her dachshund, Hallie, how to paint just two months before the dog went blind in April 2011 due to an autoimmune disease. Even without her vision, Hallie returned to the canvas. “I was shocked when I sat her down in front of her easel and she reached over on her own and picked up the paint brush and started to paint!” Murry told TODAY.com.

    Murry started selling Hallie’s paintings for charity, and they’ve donated over $15,000 to Purple Heart Rescue with her painting's proceeds. Hallie paints less now that she’s older, but “still is excited when the paints come out and the beret goes on her head.”
    Dee Dee Murry
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    On a boat -

    Tucker the dog helps researchers take better samplings of killer whale feces in waters off Washington State and Canada’s British Columbia. With his help, researchers can keep their distance from the whales they’re studying, who are often stressed by the presence of boats.

    The dog has has been trained to pick up the scent of killer whales’ scat from up to a mile away, so researchers don’t have to rely on a biased sample of more curious orcas who don’t mind swimming near boats.
    Fred Felleman
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    King of the hill -

    Two Saint Bernard dogs sit in the snow on the Great St. Bernard Pass after returning from their winter quarters in Martigny, Switzerland, on June 4, 2009. The dogs spent the summer on the pass and returned to Martigny by the end of the year.

    The tradition started when early 18th century monks used the dogs to help on rescue missions after dangerous snowstorms on the St. Bernard Pass, a route through the Alps that includes Italy and Switzerland. They are credited with saving over 2,000 lives.
    Jean-christophe Bott / AP
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    It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... a flying dog? -

    An elite anti-terrorist air force unit outside of Bogota, Colombia, has taken crime fighting to new heights — troop members throw themselves out of planes with dogs strapped to their bodies. In this photo, Jany, a fearless Belgian shepherd trained to detect explosives, jumps out of an aircraft attached to one of the officers, more than 1,000 feet in the air.
    Oliver Ehmig / Solent News
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    Comfort dogs -

    Children from Newtown, Conn., bond with a comfort dog from Lutheran Church Charities in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Dec. 2012.

    The specially-trained dogs are deployed to towns that have been struck by tragedy, such as Boston after the marathon bombings.

    “They’re like furry counselors,’’ Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, told NBC's Jill Rappaport.
    K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs / Facebook
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    Food finder -

    Ciska, a truffle-sniffing dog, checks out black truffles in Sorges, southwestern France, on December 18, 2006.

    Pigs might get the most credit for sniffing out truffles, but dogs are trained to hunt them down as well. It’s a big business, as truffles can sell for as much as $8,000 a pound. The Italian dog breed Lagotto Romagnolo is often used to hunt truffles, and some American farmers have imported the breed, according to NBC News.
    Regis Duvignau / Reuters
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    Sniffing out crime -

    A dog stands near packs of marijuana confiscated in California on May 24, 2012. Police regularly use trained dogs to sniff out drugs like marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and more.
    Jaime Saldarriaga / Reuters
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    Leap dog -

    A military instructor in Belarus trains her dog at a frontier guard’s cynology center near the town of Smorgon on Jan. 11. The center works with military instructors and trained dogs who will guard Belarus’s border, and sells puppies and dogs that are unable to serve civilians by working on the border.
    Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters
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    Searching through the rubble -

    Andy Rebmann and Marcia Koenig of K9 Specialty Search Associates have trained search and rescue dogs since 1972. These dogs search for cadavers and locate missing persons in wilderness and disaster areas. In this photo, cadaver dog Piper investigates an abandoned apartment complex that went up in flames, searching for any homeless people that may have lived there.
    K9 Specialty Search Associates
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    Comfort for veterans -

    Part of the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS), Canines for Combat Veterans is a program for service members who were injured in combat — many were deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These pups are trained to retrieve and carry objects, press elevator buttons, turn lights on and off, and more.

    About 95 percent of NEADS assistance dogs are trained by prisoners in Mass. and Rhode Island, a practice that is beneficial to both man and dog.
    Winthrop Handy / NEADS
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    When 'fetch' is work -

    An elderly couple from Angus, Scotland, sits with their Labrador, Kaspa. Kaspa is one of two specially-trained dogs who works with older people to help reduce social isolation and anxiety levels in men and women with dementia. The program was developed in 2012 by Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled, and Guide Dogs Scotland.

    The dogs are trained to fetch medicines at the sound of an alarm bell and can help wake a person up.
    Dogs for the Disabled
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    Squaw dog -

    The Squaw Valley Avalanche Rescue Dog program got its start in the 1980s and has been an effective rescue tool in the Lake Tahoe region ever since. These dogs are trained for a minimum of two to three years to rescue people in the event of an avalanche.

    Training starts with simple drills like a game of hide-and-seek and ends with dogs being sent out to find strangers buried under the snow. They’re rewarded with a big session of tug of war.
    Hank De Vre' Photography / Squaw Valley Avalanche Rescue Dog
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    Bomb sniffer -

    Dog handler James Stegmeyer works with Kamilka at the Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio on Oct. 21, 2008. The $15 million veterinary hospital, complete with operating rooms and intensive care, is an advanced facility treating military dogs that find bombs and aid patrols on the war front.
    Eric Gay / AP
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    Soap stars and circus pups -

    At Friends of the Family academy in Oakland, Calif., trainer Francis Metcalf and his wife, Norma, teach all sorts of stage and circus tricks to pups in their own backyard. One of the pups they’ve trained is a bona fide soap opera star, while others perform just for fun.
    Friends of the Family
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    DVD dog -

    Black Labradors Lucky and Flo, the first two DVD detection dogs in the world, pose with police officers. Dog trainer Neil Powell was approached by the Motion Picture Association of America to investigate the possibility of training dogs to locate pirated dvds. He discovered they do have a discernible odor, which he imprinted on his rescue dogs during a 12-week training process.

    The pair traveled around the world showing off their skills and located $2 million worth of discs in Malaysia, according to Powell. However, a £10,000 ($15,613) bounty was put on their heads, so Powell quickly got them out of the country.
    Neil Powell
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    The mayor -

    Border Collie Lucy Lou has been the mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, since August 2008, when she was elected in a "tight race" against a cat, an opossum, a donkey and one human. She's appeared on several television programs, gives town tours, and has her own wine label with Elk Creek Vineyards called "Mayor's Select," accordering to her owner Bobbi Kayser.
    Bobbi Kayser
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    Work break -

    U.S. Army Sergeant Nathan Arriaga of the U.S. Forces Afghanistan K-9 unit, sleeps with Zzarr, a 6-year old Dutch shepherd, on July 24, 2011 at the Forward Operating Base Walton before a patrol mission in the Arghandab district.

    Zzarr, who has a rank of staff sergeant, is a military working dog trained to detect bombs and improvised explosive devices (IED).
    Romeo Gacad / AFP - Getty Images
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    Dogs fighting cancer -

    Jonathan Ball (right) introduces Marta Drexler, an ovarian cancer patient, to dog McBaine, who is in the first round of training for a study that will eventually involve detecting cancerous tissue at Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia. Drexler donated ovarian cancer tissue for the study.
    Matt Rourke / AP
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    Dogs on a bike ride -

    Penn State law student Ben Premack sits on his custom recumbent bicycle as his dogs pull him along a jogging path in State College, Penn., on April 9, 2013. Premack customized his bicycle to help exercise his Tamaskan dogs which are bred to pull.
    Nabil K. Mark / AP
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    Sensitive sniffer -

    A Colombian soldier trains a sniffer dog in a rural area of Cali, Colombia, on Aug. 14, 2013. Sniffer dogs, guided by soldiers, have excelled in saving the lives of thousands in areas of conflict.
    Luis Robayo / AFP/Getty Images
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