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War dogs were most used throughout the Vietnam war.
"From housepets to heroes."

These dogs could detect people and objects both in and out of water. They could repel from helicopters and obey every command they recieve. But, they would only obey the soldier that trained them.

When a dog sensed something amiss, they would alert. If you've ever seen a dog perk up and focus when it sees another animal, then you know what an alert is.

"He latched onto my hand. He gave me a friendly nip on the hand and looked at me. Wolf absolutely would not let me go by him. I knew something was very wrong... begins to cry... I looked straight ahead and not more than two feet was a tripwire. And I would have died right there with him if he wouldn't have found that wire." - Charlie Cargo, Vietnam war dog handler

"If we hadn't had a dog... we probably would have lost 12 or 13 guys to that sniper." Vietnam Veteran named Dobbins. His dog was named Toro.

In one account, a dog handler was shot. His dog dragged him out of the hot zone into safety, even after being shot twice.
One day, recooperating in the field hospital: "I didn't even see him coming... and... he creeped over and crawled up to my bed... and put his head on my shoulder... ... I was so happy to see him..."

"Without Toro, there's no way I'd have made it back to the United States. I wouldn't have made it probably three months without Toro." - Carl Dobbins, Vietnam dog handler.

Vietnam war dogs, commonly German Shepherds and their handlers almost always walked point. That is, at the head of the squad.
"I'm only 19... I was scared to death." It is said over 10,000 men were saved by war dogs. But the army wasn't impressed. Of the 4,000+ dogs involved in the war. Only 1 in 10 returned home.

The VietCom were so afraid of the dogs, that they would give rewards for the ear of a dog or squad patch of the handler.

In fact, one account states that the V.C. actually attacked a dog kennel one day. "Someone flicked the light on and we saw the mass of blood draining out of the kennel walls." During the battle, the handlers even tried to run to the kennel to release their dog, even in the midst of mortar and gunfire.

"Each day, dog handlers were in danger of losing their life... or the life of their best friend."

"So I left him there, and he just looked at me like I'd be coming back"
"The hardest thing I ever did in my entire life", was leave his dog. In fact, hundreds of dogs were turned over to the South Vietnamese armies. The head of the Veterinarian program for war dogs, Greg Blackwell, was forced to do this very thing. "I was told that the world Health Org. just pass this law... 'No animals could come out of Vietnam'... There was no law... We found out later... But that's what they told us." "Those dogs knew... It was a death sentence." He had no choice.

Recently, a War Dog Memorial is being funded and constructed.

Only 200+ war dogs went home from Vietnam.

"Dags?" the man asked.

"Daaaaaaaaaaaags," was the slow, emphasized reply. "You like dags?"


Yeah, I like dags alright. Dags have been a pretty important part of my life. One in particular, a military working dog, as a matter of fact. Military Working Dog, or MWD - that's our modern parlance for a war dog. There's room for an anecdote here, about the Mallinois nicknamed "WMD"; he had a confirmed solo kill. The running joke was that he truly craved nothing but the taste of human blood, but that was demonstrably false. He liked MRE peanut butter just as well.

You know, I don't much like the term MWD, so I'm going to go with war dog, because it seems a little more noble. Dogs don't know what being politically correct and deliberately obfuscated means. They only know to find the bad thing, protect the good thing, and roll over for belly rubs.

War dogs have been used as early in recorded history as about 630 BC, when the Lydians were recorded as having a separate organization composed solely of war dogs. In 1799, Napoleon used them as a buffer in front of his reserves, and we still use them in the US military in a variety of applications. "Substance detection" (drug sniffing), bomb sniffing, and, when necessary, giving chase where doing so is either too dangerous or not possible for a human. They've gained some amount of notoriety for their use (and some would say abuse) in intimidating prisoners or crowds. I won't comment on the morality of that particular use, but I can tell you - it's pretty effective, particularly the crowd control measure. I've been places where being confronted or even threatened with a squad worth of loaded guns does zip to an angry and growing mob, but a dog foaming and snarling at the end of a very short chain scatters them faster than they can think to drop the rocks and Molotovs.

It was late Fall in Afghanistan, and the big push from los tipos malos was to get, well, SOMETHING done before the winter. See, they can't do fuck all during the winter. It's really hard to be a credible fighting force when it's below freezing, windy, and you don't have coats or boots.

It was crunch time, and there had been a lot of activity recently. Large congregation in a particular village of interest, lots and lots of intel pointing to big names and faces in the area. Naturally, what does the US mil do about a huge gathering of badguys? The same thing a kid does with a huge wasp nest hanging off the shed - go and poke it with a stick. In this case, the stick was about a platoon's worth of bad news for anything that looked like a wasp, to include two war dogs.

One was a German Shepherd, the other Dutch. The German was a newer dog, three or four years old and on her first deployment. The Dutch was experienced, but his attitude wasn't what one would call proper for a working dog. Too friendly and social unless he was directly at work on a specific task. Unless kept on a leash at the compound, he'd hang out at the smokepit and circulate for pets and rubs. Never quite out of view of his handler, but not the kind of rigid discipline one might expect. I don't think he was really trained all that well to begin with, another victim of the compressed training pipeline that so much of the military has been reduced to. But, he'd proven his worth and then some. He had a couple of IEDs to his credit and his handler had a couple of wry stories about the usefulness of the "watch 'em" command.

So, the stick moved forward, with topcover and ISR support. Predictably, a few pokes was all it took to really piss off the wasps and that's when things started to get ugly. Suddenly there's chatter that three to five probably important guys had broken away and were hauling away from the pointy end just as fast as their little legs could carry them. They cut through a couple of ravines and then made their way directly up a wadi. One of them stopped at a narrow spot and buried... something. An unidentified object that looked like a large sack or package of some sort.

So, since these guys were probably honchos of some sort, they sent some guys to go get them, including one of the war dogs. Everyone was of course quite sure that the thing they had buried was an IED designed to blow up anyone who came after them, so they sent the Dutch up to check it out. He sniffed around, paused over the object, then trotted right back to the handler.

They sent him again, and a third time. Same results. On the third attempt he circled around for a good while, sniffing, obviously understanding that he was meant to find something. But, he didn't. So back he trotted.

The fireteam still avoided the dug-up spot the best they could, and eventually found two of the three-to-five guys hiding in some bushes. The only other place for the one-to-three more to be hiding was in the very nearby underground portion of the wadi. It was a cave-like tunnel, about two feet wide, and pitch black even under NVGs. There was a good chance the big honcho was wearing a suicide vest. The only thing to do was wait him out, which was impractical given the approaching sunrise, or to send in the dog. So, they sent the dog in with instructions to find and report the next person he came across.

There were three in the tunnel, we found out later after the recovery team dug the wadi out, including what was left of the honcho.

They buried the dog in the compound and poured a concrete slab over it. They scratched a little inscription with his name and the day he died, and the commander embedded a purple heart in the wet concrete. We took apart the old smokepit and rebuilt it on top of the new slab a few days later, once it had time to dry.

Some people still give the concrete a little pat before they go out. I think about him every time I smoke a cigarette, and every time I pet a dog that isn't mine.

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