War Dogs

"Like their human comrades, some war dogs can handle combat, and some can't. One Marine Corps explosives dog, a black Lab named Daisy, has found 13 hidden bombs since arriving in Afghanistan in October. Zoom, another Lab, refused to associate with the Marines after seeing one serviceman shoot a feral Afghan dog. Only after weeks of retraining, hours of playing with a reindeer squeaky toy and a gusher of good-boy praise was Zoom willing to go back to work.

"With some Marines, PTSD can be from one terrible event, or a cumulative effect," says Maj. Rob McLellan, 33-year-old operations officer of the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, who trains duck-hunting dogs back home in Green Bay, Wis. Likewise, he says, the stress sometimes "weighs a dog down to the point where the dog just snaps.""  LA Times


I am a dog man.  I have had dogs all my life starting with a cocker spaniel named "Taffy" when I was three.  We are all dog people in my family.  I wish there were no animals involved in war.  Thank God there are no more horses and mules in all this…  Look at the dead horses in the Brady pictures of the Civil War. 

The US military now treats these dogs with the kindness due to old comrades.  It was not always thus.  Bringing the dogs home requires effort, but now they make that effort.

"Gunner" should come back to the US, to a good home where slamming doors will eventually not frighten him anymore.  pl

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28 Responses to War Dogs

  1. Maureen Lang says:

    We are indeed all dog people in our family. Here is a site that SST commenters might be interested to visit:

  2. Charles I says:

    Today we are of one mind, a tribute to your generosity, patience, scholarship and obvious soft center.

  3. optimax says:

    The hearing ability of a dog is dependent on its breed and age. However, the range of hearing is approximately 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz,[2] which is much greater than that of humans. As with humans, some dog breeds become deafer with age,[3] such as the German Shepherd and Miniature Poodle. When dogs hear a sound, they will move their ears towards it in order to gain maximised reception. In order to achieve this, the ears of a dog are controlled by at least 18 muscles. This allows the ears to tilt and rotate. Ear shape also allows for the sound to be more accurately heard. Many breeds often have upright and curved ears, which direct and amplify the sounds. As dogs hear much higher frequency sounds than humans,[3] they have a different perception of the world. Sounds that seem loud to humans often emit high frequency tones that can scare away dogs. (wikipedia).
    The 4th of July drives many dogs crazy and with their increased hearing sensitivity I don’t see how they can survive in a war zone, though some dogs can funtion well around loud noises. Gunner can’t, send him home.
    That Gunner’s problems may be related to seeing a feral dog killed is an interesting avenue into dog psychology.

  4. walrus says:

    Roxanne, my chocolate Labrador, tells me she agrees with everything you wrote.
    Now which one of you was feeding Sabi, the Australian Black Lab explosives dog that went missing for Fourteen months in Uruzgan?

  5. SolidPhil says:

    Give them another 50,000 years or so, and the dogs might civilize us.

  6. The Dog and the USMC Col
    When I was in Baghdad there weren’t that many bomb dogs there and they were terribly overworked and often sick. I was going to the Al Rasheed one day in Aug (’03) for lunch with Chuzu and there was a German Sheppard at the gate there. He was exhausted and lying, panting, tongue hanging limply out, in what little shade he could find, sides heaving. Some Marine Col walks by and yells at the handler, “Why is that animal lying down on post?”
    “He’s a dog, sir.”
    “The fuck he is! He’s a US Marine and he’ll stand his post like one. Get him up! Now!”
    We were all in shock. Another Pentagon pinhead here to get his orders stamped ‘combat zone’ and then go home to tell damn lies about his contribution to the war.

  7. Patrick Lang says:

    What a flaming asshole that man was. pl

  8. Dan M says:

    @The librarian.
    Later on Iraq was flooded with working dogs. The Labs and Shepherd’s largely displaced by a beautiful dog that i’d never seen before — the Belgian Malinois. Most of them were a strain from South Africa and were said to handle the heat better. (good story — believe every word of it. Saw a can of beer ripped out of a soldiers hand on thanksgiving once — they were allowed one each — because some freshly minted West Point asshole realized he was only 19).

  9. One of my childhood pets was a cocker spaniel named “Taffy”!
    Apparently there is more and more evidenced the dogs adopted humans and not the reverse. In general as I understand it they went for an easier life–fire and more reliable food. Wonder if they someday in future will regret association with their adoptive children?

  10. Jackie says:

    That “flaming a**hole” is obviously not a dog man and knows even less about dog behaviour. I sure am glad my two are not Marines, it would interrupt their 14-16 hours of sleep per day. Oh, and they can’t follow orders, either.

  11. ked says:

    some Marines (God love ’em) have what signals guys call a “near / far problem”… it is a strength in some contexts.

  12. Patrick Lang says:

    I am always intrigued by officers who act like the shavetail you mentioned and then expect these men to fight for them or even tolerate their existence. These men are trained, equipped and conditioned to kill. A modicum of understanding and a devotion to the soldiers interests should be the basis of behavior for officers who will be in actual contact with the enemy in the company of these men. Martinets make good targets and men do not accept well the idea of following them into hostile fire. pl

  13. Col.
    Typically, certain allowances are made for the Marine (God bless ‘em) “perspective”. But in this case, you are correct.
    Shortly after the Al Rasheed was rocketed, for the second time and the only time that made the news, a Marine Security Group was TAD’d to CJTF-7’s force protection officer, a Marine MAJ who was responsible for the protection of all CJTF-7’s assets- the Palace, Convention Center, and Al Rasheed- but with no resources of his own besides a provost marshal (AF 0-2).
    The launch site for the attack on the Al Rasheed was less than 300m from the hotel and could have been stopped if the reservists on the roof hadn’t been asleep at the time of the attack. In their defense, I guess, they were asleep on their posts again less than 30 minutes after the attack, which I would take to mean they were not getting enough shut-eye. Be that as it may, Marine snipers were thought to be the answer. Of course, none of this would have happened if Bremer hadn’t opened the 14JULY Bridge to Iraqi civilian use in the first place.
    However, the problem was that the Green Zone (Dream Zone) was 2BCT’s battlespace and any CJTF-7 Marines posted anywhere would have to be OPCON’d to 2BCT. This wasn’t going to happen so the Marines posted on the palace doors and pushed the Gurkha guards there out on the perimeter. Living in the basement at the time, I walked down from our office one night as we were being mortared/rocketed. The Marines has all rolled out of their racks in the basement and taken up positions in the doorways, securing the one P-way. The basement was secure. However, that did nothing to stop the rockets.
    Friction, fog of war, stupidity?
    I’ll stick with the dogs.

  14. Dan M says:

    As you know, the shocking thing is not that men occassionaly take matters into their own hands with these sorts — it’s that it happens so very rarely.
    What i don’t know (and what you do) is what goes on in the “leadership” courses at West Point. Would be fascinating to hear about that at some point.
    My mother’s first dog was a cocker — Spooky — who is still spoken of lovingly 50 years after his death, despite his racism (he hated black people and was a little friend to all the world otherwise).
    In regards to the iraq thread, killed a little time on odierno and chalabi today (it’s my day off).

  15. Dan M says:

    Ah, the Gurkha’s the Gurkhas. Let’s not forget the fearsome layer of Georgian’s who took control of the approach to the ratshit hotel and convention center later!

  16. Patrick Lang says:

    I think that the Leadership Departments at WP, ROTC schools or any of the service academies try to teach over-achievers fresh from high school in the main that leading warriors is a matter of earning respect, and not of laws that create an artificial world in which soldiers (including marines)are rendered into robots that can be abused, treated as though they were slaves and something less than brothers in arms. The lesson is sometimes not absorbed, occasionally with catastrophic resut. I was lucky enough to have learned that before I first led men with guns, pl

  17. Jackie says:

    You reminded me of something I wanted to ask the Colonel about mules, so thanks for the article.
    I have friends in Leavenworth with a stained glass shop. Years ago, they introduced me to an older gentleman, Colonel Billy, since departed. He would talk about the mules and war, etc. Did they use mules in WWII or were they just tweaking my nose? Thank you.

  18. Abu Sinan says:

    I grew up with a black American Lab and we now have a yellow English Lab. I love dogs, but my wife being a Middle Easterner, was never around them before we got our puppy, now 7 months old.
    She is a dog convert overnight, and our 4 year old with Autism LOVES him.

  19. Patrick Lang says:

    IMO, dogs are God’s messengers to us. pl

  20. SAC Brat says:

    I like working dogs. I have worked at airports for a long time. The beagles that work for the agriculture department alongside customs looking for food and agriculture in baggage are may favorites. They seem to be the most carefree but still attentive work dogs. The explosive detection dogs always make me feel bad because when they train on the airplanes I supervise they usually have to climb up the metal non-skid treads of the maintenance stands we use.
    Several years ago, before drug testing of employees in the transportation industries became the norm, there was a mechanic who was asked by the drug detection dog trainers to leave the airplane since he was distracting the dogs from their training…
    Even longer ago I was a Boy Scout on a military base. We used to camp occasionally in a recreational area next to a bomb storage facility and it was common for the security teams to come around through our campsites. (Looking back, how many can say their scout leader had been a forward air controller in south-east asia?) Picture a dumb-ass kid from a Jean Shepard story opening his tent during the night to be nose-to-nose with a quiet but serious german shepherd with a security policeman that looked like he came from a Marine Corp recruiting poster at the other end.
    While living on bases we always had german shepherds. Surprisingly the on base veterinarians were very familiar with the breed. (sarcasm alert) I always enjoyed the demonstrations the security group put on showing their canine capabilities. It made movie dogs look like amateurs, at least in my eyes.

  21. Mark Logan says:

    Gunners rank indicates his handler is an E-7, or Gunny.
    This is above the rank of a
    dog handlers MOS. He took the dog with the most problems himself, rather than assign him to one of his people. Says something about him and his job as a senior NCO.
    I can attest that Malinois
    are definitely very good hot weather dogs.
    We have a Malinois. He was was washed out of a local LE progam due to an injury sustained when he was 6 months old. Lost an eye to a branch charging into a bush. Put into a breed rescue program for adoption, and so came to us, as we were serving as a temp foster home for that at the time. Wound up a “keeper”. Not because we couldn’t find a home, but because we simply couldn’t part with him. Present company dogs excepted (of course!) the best damn dog
    in the world. Needs a lot of excercise, but that’s what kids are for…
    During his active years he would be running strong when every other dog had long since taken to shade.
    I can understand why this breed has become so popular as a working dog. Smart as a whip.

  22. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    Yes, Jackie, mules were used in WWII. Wiki can give you a lot of detail.
    Ernie Pyle, a newspaper correspondent writing about the Italian Campaign, wrote poignantly about how mules were used to carry supplies to the front lines and bring back bodies of American soldiers on the return trip. His piece about the death of Captain Waskow an infantry officer who was liked by his men is famous.

  23. Jackie says:

    Thank you, at least I know they weren’t kidding me. I’ll look up the references.

  24. fanto says:

    Colonel, maybe someone in this distinguished company of dog lovers (no sarcasm or irony intended – I am one myself) knows who coined the phrase “the more I know people – the more I love dogs” . I was once told that it was Otto v. Bismarck. Is this true?

  25. optimax says:

    According to Jeffrey M.Mason in “Dogs Never Lie About Love,” Madame Roland coined it in the 18th century “Plus je vois les hommes, plus j’admire les chiens” (The more I see of men, the more I admire dogs.) I hope he’s right because I don’t know French. Maybe she knew Bismark, hence the low opinion of men. She obviously knew dogs.

  26. s nadh says:

    Argus recognized his master Odysseus. A dedication to Hecate to follow sun and moon. Alexander gave Sopeithes over 100 dogs, some to have the strain of tiger blood. Tobia’s dog accompanied Raphael. A man, a horse and a dog are never weary of each others company.

  27. optimax says:

    A Newfoundland named Seaman accompanied Lewis on his expedition with Clarke and company. After Lewis was buried Seaman grieved on his master’s grave, wouldn’t eat and died of a broken heart. Seaman was buried next to the friend he loved more than life itself.

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