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November 02, 2009

Devil Dogs!

Cry havoc
and let slip the dogs of war

- Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

dog.jpg Despite Shakespeare's famous line, we don't hear much about the dogs of war - those stalwart, four footed warriors who sniff out explosives, stand guard, and - when their battle buddies need them - do double duty as healers. But what happens when a Marine war dog is wounded? You probably didn't know that there's a Walter Reed for canines and it's run by... the Air Force!

A new $15 million veterinary hospital for four-legged military personnel opened Tuesday at Lackland Air Force Base, offering a long overdue facility that gives advanced medical treatment for combat-wounded dogs.

Like soldiers and Marines in combat, military dogs suffer from war wounds and routine health issues that need to be treated to ensure they can continue working.

Dogs injured in Iraq or Afghanistan get emergency medical treatment on the battlefield and are flown to Germany for care. If necessary, they’ll fly on to San Antonio for more advanced treatment — much like wounded human personnel.

Wounded war dogs undergo the same treatments as wounded warriors. That's not surprising in a way - they are warriors themselves. Ringo (shown below) was deployed to Afghanistan:

The IDD or Improvised Detection Dogs program is a group of highly trained bomb-sniffing dogs used by the U.S. Marine Corps to detect IEDs and help prevent bomb attacks.

Dogs can sniff out explosives much more effectively than electronic sensors, and can clear dangerous areas much more quickly. They also have more agility and mobility to handle the tough terrain and situations required in combat. IDDs also have the ability to pinpoint the precise location of an IED or other explosive device through their superior sniffing capabilities.

According to Matt Hilburn, author of A Marine’s Best Friend, IDD’s are generally Labrador Retrievers and go through 15 weeks of training. And while they’re not as highly trained as other military working dogs, they are exceptional at what they do.

If Marines are affectionately called "jarheads", are Marine war dogs called... "boneheads"? Actually, some of them are called Freedom Dogs:


Freedom Dogs, a San Diego-based nonprofit ...trains service dogs to help Marines coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq to overcome persisting medical and physical limitations.

The program offers a unique way in which more and more service dogs are now being utilized.

Sgt. Ian Welch is one of the first Marines to work with a Freedom Dog. Following his tours of duty in Iraq, the 25- year-old is still reeling from a traumatic brain injury, as well as severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Welch was injured during his tour of in Iraq in 2003; he was later re-deployed with his unit, the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines Kilo Company, again in 2004, and then, one more time, in 2005.

He survived the wartime ordeals, but witnessed many of his friends die beside him. Despite his recurrent service, Welch does not consider himself a hero.

"Heroes," he said, "don't come home."

I beg to differ. Whether they walk on four, two, or no legs, heroes are all around us. And we owe them a great deal.

Why not say, "thank you"?

Update: Jules has another great war dog story!

Posted by Cassandra at November 2, 2009 08:34 AM

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This story has me all wags. I am glad to see that we have come a long way since the dark days when our four legged warriors were quietly euthanized.

Posted by: Boquisucio at November 2, 2009 12:59 PM

"Why not say, "thank you"?"

Shameless pandering using the goggies....I like it!

Posted by: DL Sly at November 2, 2009 01:02 PM


Posted by: Mrs G at November 2, 2009 05:24 PM

I thought you'd like that :p

Posted by: Cassandra at November 2, 2009 05:29 PM

During WWII, the Soviet Union used dogs as antitank weapons. No, I shit you not. Look it up.

Posted by: a former european at November 3, 2009 03:42 AM

They Sovs got a bit of a shock the first time they used the dogs in combat.

Backstory -- They strapped dummy explosives to the dogs, then trained them to run under a tank (usually a BT-7 or a T-30) to get a food reward placed underneath it. After a while, a released dog would make a beeline for the nearest tank and run underneath it. The Sovs then strapped fuzed satchel charges to the dogs and released them when *German* tanks were advancing, on the theory that the dogs would run under the panzers and the satchel charges would detonate, thereby destroying the tank and making the dog a posthumous Hero of the Soviet Union.

Problem was, German tanks didn't look anything like Russian tanks, and the dogs had been taught to run under *Russian* tanks.

Guess which tanks the dogs ran underneath when they were released?

With predictable results...

Posted by: BillT at November 3, 2009 04:23 AM

Yanno, you'd have thought they, at least, would have known about Pavlov's experiments.

Posted by: DL Sly at November 3, 2009 12:07 PM