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Tag: bomb

“60 Minutes” on bomb-sniffing dogs

60 Minutes looked at bomb-sniffing dogs in a report that, especially given last night’s other featured stories — on the Marathon bombing and the 9/11 Memorial — brought home not just how many lives they’ve saved in the military overseas, but how many more they might save here.

Reporter Lara Logan focused on the dogs of war, and the trainers that describe their canines as nearly infallible when it comes to detecting bombs.

But they’re not so infallible when explosive devices are planted after the dogs have made their sweeps, as apparently was the case at the Boston Marathon.

“Would an average police dog have found these bombs at the Boston Marathon …?” she asked trainer Mike Ritland.

“…Based on what I do know, yes,” Ritland said. “If dogs went through the areas where they were placed– you know, your average, certified police bomb dog should have found them. My thoughts are if these guys (the suspects) are paying close attention to these dogs, they’re waiting. And when the dogs leave, they bring it in, they hand– they infiltrate, essentially, they drop it right where it’s busy, and very soon after, it detonates.”

As the “60 Minutes” piece pointed out, since 9/11 dogs have been used more than ever because nothing is more effective in finding hidden bombs. Dogs in the employ of the military and FBI have sniffed out bombs, captured enemies, and one assisted Navy SEAL Team 6 when it took down Osama bin Laden. Much more of what they do, given the often secretive nature of their work, never becomes known.

“The best of them serve with U.S. Special Operations and they’re in a league of their own,” Logan noted. “It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to talk about them publicly because much of what they do is classified, but we were able to talk to the people who train them for this story. We took the opportunity to ask about what might have happened in Boston while getting a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of America’s most elite dogs.”

(One member of the “60 Minutes” team — in a segment not shown on the air but featured on 60minutesovertime.com – even volunteered to be chased down by a military dog in training in Texas. Producer Reuben Heyman-Kantor, in the video above, tried to outrun the dog, but was brought down quickly.)

In her interview with former Navy SEAL Ritland, who now finds and trains dogs for Special Operations and top tier units in the FBI, Logan asked, ”What can these dogs do on the streets of America?”

“The very same thing that they do for our boys overseas in that they detect explosives– they are a fantastic deterrent– they use their nose to find, you know, people as well,” Ritland said.

“Everybody knows that dogs can smell better than humans but what they don’t realize is that if you and I walk into the kitchen and there’s a pot of beef stew on the counter, you and I smell beef stew. A dog smells potatoes, carrots, beef, onion, celery, gravy, flour. They smell each and every individual component of everything that’s in that beef stew. And they can separate everyone one of those. You can’t hide anything from them. It won’t work because you can’t fool a dog’s nose.”

Ritland now trains dogs on his 20-acre ranch in rural Cooper, Texas, runs the Warrior Dog Foundation for retired war dogs, and is the author of “Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines.”

Ritland says its important — amid these days of budget cuts — to remember what lifesavers the dogs can be, both in wars and at home.

In Afghanistan, according to the report, 42 dogs have been killed in action. They’ve become so effective that the enemy is singling them out. A Taliban commander told “60 Minutes” that on his last operation they were ordered to open fire on the American dogs first, and deal with the soldiers next.

Logan visited what she said was one of only three breeders in the U.S. who produce dogs — almost always the Belgian Malinois — for top tier military units.

She also interviewed Green Beret Chris Corbin who, along with his dog Ax, almost died on their final mission in Afghanistan.

Corbin said he missed a signal from the dog while searching for mines. Ax was alerting to Corbin’s foot, but Corbin realized it too late. He lost both his lower legs. Ax was not wounded. Both returned to duty.

Ax was at Corbin’s side during the interview, and rarely took his eyes off his former partner as he described their first reunion after the blast.

“I just said something simple. ‘Hey, where’s my boy at?’ and he stopped. He froze. He looked around. And he went into a panic until he found me and he jumped on my legs. Painful. Just– I was just happy to see him. I didn’t care how much it hurt.”

Target remembered at candlelight vigil

Target, the dog brought to the U.S. from Aghanistan by one of the soldiers whose lives she was credited with saving — only to be accidentally euthanized by an animal shelter – was remembered in a memorial service last night.

The candlelight vigil was held at the Pima County Animal Shelter in Tucson.

In Afghanistan, Target, a stray befriended by a group of American soldiers, kept a suicide bomber who was trying to enter a building on a military base from gaining access. Instead, the bomber instead set off his bomb in a doorway. Five soldiers were injured, several of whom credited Target with helping save their lives.

Phoenix soldier Terry Young brought Target back home to Arizona.  Last month, the dog escaped from Young’s yard and ended up in at the Pinal County animal shelter in Casa Grande, where she was accidentally euthanized the next day. The employee responsible for the mistake has been suspended.

Young said his son, Tavius, and the rest of the family is still working to get over the dog’s death, according to KGUN9.

“It’s been a few weeks already and Tavius still says, ‘Where’s Target?’ It’s heartbreaking.”

Was this dog ready to protect our shores?

securitas

 
The Virginian-Pilot this week sniffed out a doozy of a story — about how 49 dogs supposedly trained in bomb detection for the Navy by a private security contractor failed to pass muster and were returned to the contractor, only to apparently languish in the months that followed.

The Navy originally picked up the dogs last spring from Securitas Security Services USA,  a private security contractor in Chicago. But once the dogs arrived at Naval bases, not a one was able to find planted explosives during military certification tests, according to the Navy.

The Navy sent the dogs back to the contractor, then later decided to end the contract with Securitas, buying the 49 dogs and training them on its own.

When the Navy went to retrieve to dogs on Oct. 5, according to Navy emails obtained by the newspaper, the dogs were dirty, weak and so thin that their ribs and hip bones jutted out.

In the emails, a civilian official describes the dogs’ condition as  “deplorable” and says he feared the dogs would have died if the military hadn’t come to get them.

In fact, the Navy said later, at least two of the dogs didn’t survive, and several others were deemed too sick to be of use, the newspaper reported. Nearly a year after they were supposed to have begun working, the remaining K-9s still are not patrolling Navy installations as intended.

It was the first time the Navy had procured dogs trained by an outside contractor. In the past, it trained its own dogs to help protect its bases and ships.

Securitas disputes that the dogs were poorly trained and neglected, and says that the Navy still owes it money — more than $6 million for its services and for the animals. Jim McNulty, an executive vice president, said the dogs were healthy and well-fed when the Navy picked them up a second time. He disputed that they were kept in a warehouse. “They were in excellent shape,” he said.

Securitas bought the dogs for about $465,000  from Vohne Liche Kennels, an Indiana-based business that offers work-ready police dogs as well as training courses for handlers.

When the Navy canceled the contract, it paid $800,000 to Securitas for the dogs, according to Securitas.

The state of Illinois has launched an investigation into the dogs’ treatment.

The Navy’s shift to privately trained explosives-detection dogs came as part of a decision in 2008 to outsource a number of base security services. In January 2009, Lockheed announced it had signed a $350 million, five-year contract with the military, part of which called for Lockheed to provide explosives-detection dogs to supplement the Navy’s own K-9 forces and free up more Navy dogs to deploy overseas.

Soon after it signed the agreement, Lockheed subcontracted the K-9 portion to Securitas.  Securitas began offering K-9 services about seven years ago.

In a written statement, the Navy said it expects 39 of the original 49 dogs to eventually patrol installations as intended. Several are now being cared for and trained at bases in the Hampton Roads area. 

(US NAVY photo)

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)

Philadelphia airport dogs not up to snuff

All three bomb-sniffing dogs handled by the Transportation Security Administration at Philadelphia International Airport have lost their certification after having failed their last two tests.

And Fox News reports the problems may extend beyond that: Sources say about a dozen of the 700 TSA dogs at 85 airports have failed the tests as well.

A TSA spokesman said the three dogs in Philadelphia — after failing standard tests in November and December — are continuing intensive training to regain their certification, and are continuing to work at the airport as a “visual deterrent.” 

The dogs, trained in at Lackland Air Force base in Texas, completed the 10-week course all TSA dogs must successfully pass.

Ten other city police dogs assigned to Philadelphia’s airport passed the tests.

The TSA spokesman said the agency is working quickly to recertify the bomb sniffing dogs and assured the traveling public that security would not suffer.

Missing-in-action Labrador found in the desert

sabiAfter 14 months in the Afghan desert, a missing-in-action Labrador retriever — attached to an Australian Army bomb detection unit — was found by a U.S. soldier.

Sabi was declared missing after a bloody battle with the Taliban that began after an ambush of a convoy made up of U.S., Afghan and Australian soldiers. Nine soldiers, including Sabi’s handler, were wounded.

A U.S. soldier found Sabi roaming with an Afghan man in Oruzgan Province last week, Australia’s Townsville Bulletin reported.

The U.S. soldier said it was immediately obvious that the Labrador was specially trained — and understood English. ”I took the dog and gave it some commands it understood,” he said.

Sabi appeared in good health. She was flown to Kandahar to be checked by a veterinarian before her return to Australia.

The Australian Special Operations Task Group had made repeated attempts to discover the fate of the dog and never gave up hope.

”She’s a tough little bugger, absolutely as tough as nails,” Chief Trainer Sergeant Damian Dunne said. “For a dog to be missing for so long to be found … everyone is stoked.”

Sabi, like her fellow bomb detection dogs, came from a dog pound and was trained to sniff out improvised explosive devices. She was first deployed in 2007 and was nearing the end of her second deployment when she went missing last year.

Australian bomb-sniffing dog laid to rest

novaAustralian soldiers in Afghanistan bid farewell to Nova, a mixed breed dog from a shelter who was trained to detect bombs.

Nova died after a car accident during a training operation at Camp Holland on Friday, according to the Courier Mail

The two-year-old dog was involved in several missions in Afghanistan, helping to sniff out improvised explosive devices placed by Taliban insurgents.

Medics tried to save Nova but her wounds were too severe and she was put down by the regimental medical officer. Base personnel later gathered with their chaplain to say farewell to their four-legged mate, who will be cremated.

Several other Australian Army explosive-detection dogs have been killed or injured in Afghanistan over the past two years, including Merlin and Andy, both killed in vehicle accidents, and Razz, who was killed when a bomb he found detonated.

(Photo: Nova and her handler Spr. Reuben Griggs/AAP)

Old soldier’s dog keeps his memory alive

laiaBy day, Army Maj. Steven Hutchison — a Vietnam veteran who came out of retirement at age 59 to fight in Iraq — was rough and tough, crusty and disagreeable, a man with little respect for the rules.

He violated one of them nightly, sleeping with his arms wrapped around Laia, a stray yellow puppy he had taken in from the streets.

Hutchison died in May, killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his truck — the oldest soldier to die in the Iraq war. But Laia lives on.

Laia was transported back to the U.S. by Operation Baghdad Pups, preserving not only the pup, but — as described in the Detroit Free Press yesterday — the memory of Army Maj. Steven Hutchison, as well.

“Whenever Laia was around,” Hutchison’s “demeanor and personality changed 1,000%,” Sgt. Andrew Hunt wrote in an e-mail to Hutchison’s family. “He was never without a smile; he was so much happier in life.” When a senior officer ordered Hutchison to get rid of the dog or face disciplinary action, Hutchison sent her into hiding with a friend at a far outpost on the border of Iran. The puppy broke free and ran away, returning one day to Hutchison’s base with a broken leg.

The day Hutchison was killed, Laia was spotted chained up outside a tent by Jerry Deaven, an employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Detroit. He was visiting Iraq to research terrorist funding.

“What’s going to happen to her, now that the major is gone?” Deaven asked. A few members of Hutchison’s team said they wanted to take her, but they were getting redeployed. “If I didn’t take the dog, they would have had to put the dog down,” he said. Read more »

Stray-turned-police dog dies in vehicle in N.J.

pattonA golden retriever rescued as a stray and trained to sniff out bombs for the Mount Holly, N.J., Police Department has died.

Patton, who was 5 years old, died in the vehicle of his handler and partner, Officer Kara McIntosh, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“We’re investigating every aspect of the case,” said Mount Holly Police Chief Steve Martin.

A spokesman for the New Jersey SPCA said his office was awaiting results of an autopsy performed at the Columbus Animal Hospital. He declined to say whether heat had played a part in the dog’s death. It was unclear how long Patton had been left in the vehicle, or whether McIntosh was working at the time of Patton’s death.

Martin declined to comment on the circumstances leading to the dog’s death.

According to a website dedicated to golden retrievers, Patton was discovered by Mount Holly officers looking for a K-9 dog at the Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue’s Golden Gateway, in Lancaster County.

After intensive training, Patton learned to recognize more than 20 scents, and specialized in rooting out shell casings. He became part of a statewide task force under the U.S Department of Homeland Security.

The Trentonian quoted an anonymous source as saying the dog died at an animal hospital after being left in a hot car for an extended period of time.

Traumatized war dogs sent back to action

Timi came back from the war in with some serious “readjustment issues,” including nightmares characterized by violent kicking — but none were serious enough to prevent him from being returned for another tour of duty in Iraq.

Or at least that’s what his veterinarian said.

Dogs, like human soldiers, can carry the burden of war back home, but the damage isn’t likely to keep them from being sent right back to action. Just like thousands of soldiers, dogs — primarily highly trained German shepherds and Belgian Malinois — are being forced to deploy for two and three tours, according to a Washington Post article.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Defense Department has increased the number of military dogs — mostly bomb sniffers — from 1,320 to 2,025, and many have served multiple tours.

The Post article doesn’t delve into whether its right or wrong to be returning traumatized canines to duty, but considering the Pentagon has invested $15,000 to train each one, it’s likely the military strives to get its money’s worth.

In a way, they’re too valuable to be discharged. Dogs have saved countless lives by finding bombs, ammunition and hidden weapons, said Master Sgt. Robert Tremmel, manager of the working dogs program at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where the dogs from different branches of the military are initially trained.

The U.S. War Dogs Association is trying to persuade the Pentagon to create a medal for dogs. Another group is pushing for a military working dog memorial in the Washington area. And the Humane Society, which criticized the Pentagon during the Vietnam War, when many dogs were left behind or euthanized, has credited the military with working to find retirement homes for them.

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