Dogs have been used in war for centuries. From the Romans, Greeks, Persians, to modern day, armies around the world have seen the loyal and strong canines as a powerful resource to combat their enemies. Today the United States boasts of having highly skilled and trained dogs in search and rescue, bomb detection, tracking, and attack, in every military branch. During the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, the Navy SEALs had a Belgian Malinois named Cairo as part of their team. Military dogs and their handlers go through rigorous training at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland (JBSA). Almost all of the canines and their humans are trained here. German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and retrievers are the favourite breeds in the military. These animals are admired for their skills by their handlers, but the bond the animal and person build may not be something either party is prepared for.Canines don’t just work side-by-side with the military men and women. Their calm demeanour helps the squad stay grounded during the harsh realities of war.
Dogs have a sixth sense that is not only used during dangerous situations. These brave animals know when their handlers need a cuddle, lick or a minute to play.
Dogs go into full battle with their unit without hesitation. If they have any fear, they don’t show it. They go in bravely and put their lives on the line.
According to the San Antonio Magazine’s article “Canines in Combat,” of the 500 dogs deployed, five per cent return home suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. More than half return to full duty after treatment. This does not take into account the number who are physically injured during combat.
JBSA estimates that 90 per cent of handlers end up adopting their furry partners.
Service dogs are trained to bite and attack the enemy. Yet when it comes to their handlers, they are more than willing to show their vulnerable side by curling up together for a much deserved nap.
Louis Robinson, a retired Air Force K9 Handler, estimates that a fully trained canine is worth about $150,000.
Handlers are warned to keep the relationship with their dogs professional and not get too emotionally involved. This is easier said than done. When a dog perishes in battle, the feeding dishes are turned upside and the squad honours the fallen soldier.
Many handlers recall situations where they believed an area was clear and safe to proceed but the dog’s sixth sense kicked in and warned of impending danger. The humans don’t ever doubt their partners.
Corporal Kiddy was flying home after 12 years of service with the United States Marines. The flight attendant made the announcement and Corporal Kiddy sat up straight to welcome the congratulations from everyone aboard.
Still, since 1998 the military began breeding 15 per cent of the canines and hope to grow these numbers every year. This is a priority for the United States since a dog’s involvement in the military is highly important.
Men and women in the military are away from their families for months at a time. Dogs provide that sense of family even if its somewhere across the world.