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Hell no, he won’t go: War dog has had enough

gunnerGunner, though he hasn’t seen much of it, is — from all appearances — tired of war.

Out of the 58 bomb-sniffing dogs the Marines have in Afghanistan, only one—a yellow Lab named Gunner— is suffering from such severe canine post-traumatic stress disorder that he’s having to sit things out, remaining behind at his base camp to quiver in his kennel, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Marines call him “combat-ineffective” and “not mission-capable.” He’s refusing to go into battle and perform the war-time deeds he was trained to do, which makes him a liability, in the eyes of the Marines.

Like their human comrades, some war dogs can handle combat, and some can’t, according to the Journal piece (which includes a slideshow of Gunner in action, or, more accurately, in inaction).

Gunner graduated from bomb-dog school in Virginia, but the Marines say he was skittish even before he arrived in the combat zone in October and was posted to a front-line battalion. He reacted so nervously to gunfire that he never even got a chance to go on a real patrol.

He’s not the first dog to decline to perform his duties.  Another Lab refused to associate with the Marines after seeing a serviceman shoot a feral Afghan dog. It took weeks of retraining, hours of playing with a reindeer squeaky toy and a piles of praise before Zoom was willing to go back to work.

Capt. Michael Bellin, an Army veterinarian working with the Marines, says he’s seen canine post-traumatic stress disorder cases before. “I think it’s possible, depending on what they went through.”

Gunner was sent to the main kennel at Camp Leatherneck, where bomb dogs recuperate from illness or injury. For weeks after he arrived, Gunner refused to leave the kennel compound. Even now almost any sound sends him into a panic. If a shipping container door slams somewhere nearby, Gunner hunches down and bolts for an open cage door. If an artillery round goes off in the distance, he races into the tent of kennel manager, Cpl. Chad McCoy.

The corporal doubts Gunner will ever be fit for combat; instead he’s trying to get him to get over his fears enough to make him adoptable back home.

(Photo: Wall Streee Journal, Bryan Denton)

Comments

Comment from Anne’n'Spencer
Time March 6, 2010 at 2:02 pm

A favorite story of my kids (and me) when they were small was the tale of Ferdinand, the bull. He preferred to sit under his cork tree smelling the flowers rather than going to town to fight in the bull ring. While the Marine Corps can certainly be proud of its brave and intelligent combat dogs, I think there’s also a place in the world for dogs like Gunner, who is certainly a spiritual heir of Ferdinand. Good for the Marines, too, for recognizing that and getting Gunner rehabbed enough to go to a good home.

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time March 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm

A killer to read. I hope that I am not the only reader who finds the exposure of canines to the deafening, bloody terrors of warfare utterly appalling. I would adopt this dog TOMORROW. I suspect that I am not alone. Let’s just skip the corporal’s continued efforts.

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