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Tag: military

Taliban show off captured military dog

The military dog captured by the Taliban — and shown off by his captors on a video posted on the Internet — was apparently attached to a British special forces unit.

While the Taliban identified their captive as a U.S. dog, military sources who asked not to be identified say the bomb-sniffing dog was British, and that it disappeared after a deadly firefight in Afghanistan’s Laghman Province on Dec. 23, according to the Washington Post.

Officials  at the Pentagon said it is the first time they recall a military dog being taken captive.

The British Defense Ministry has not confirmed the nationality of the dog.

In the video, the dog, believed to a Belgian Malinois, stands amid a group of heavily armed men, appearing confused at times, tentatively wagging its tail at others.

“Allah gave victory to the mujahideen!” one of the fighters says in the video, adding, in apparent reference to U.S. forces, ”Down with them, down with their spies!”

The dog wears a black protective vest, which was oufitted with what the Taliban said were sophisticated electronic devices.

The video was posted on the Internet Feb. 5 via a Twitter account often used to disseminate Taliban propaganda.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the dog was captured after a firefight between coalition forces and Taliban fighters in the Alin Nigar district of Afghanistan’s Laghman province in late December.

“The mujahideen valorously put tough resistance against the troops for hours,” he said. “The dog was of high significance to the Americans.”

U.S. Special Operations troops often use the Belgian Malinois, some of which have been trained to parachute and rappel with their handlers.

A Belgian Malinois was among the members of the special forces team that found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.

National monument honors dogs in combat

monument

The United States’ first national monument to military working dogs was dedicated at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio on Monday.

The nine-foot tall bronze statue, built with private funds, features four dogs and a handler and is inscribed with the words “Guardians of America’s Freedom.”

Lackland is home to the U.S. Armed Forces center that has trained dogs for all branches of the military since 1958.

The sculpture features dogs of four major breeds — Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Labrador retriever, and Belgian malinois — and honors all those who have served in all branches of the military over theyears.

You can learn more about the memorial, how it came to be, and donate to the cause here.

(Photo: Benjamin Faske / U.S. Air Force)

Together again: Dog and Marine reunited


Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach, while serving in Afghanistan, made a promise to Casey, the explosive-detecting yellow Lab who worked alongside him.

“I promised her if we made it out of alive, I’d do whatever it took to find her,” Gundlach said.

Gundlach, after completing his military service and enrolling at the University of Wisconsin, managed to find out that Casey had finished her military service and been sent to work for the state of the Iowa, detecting explosives.

Knowing it was probably just the first round of a long bureaucratic battle, Gundlach wrote to State Fire Marshal Director Ray Reynolds, explaining the connection he felt with the four-year-old dog who’d been both lifesaver and companion. Gundlach wears a tattoo on his right forearm depicting Casey with angel wings and a halo.

Governments being governments, whether they’re state or federal, you’d expect Gundlach’s plea to get bounced around, filed away or heartlessly overlooked.

But, as reported by the Associated Press, things happened quickly.

“He’s been putting a case together for the last two months, sending me pictures,” Reynolds said. “ … It just tugged on your heart.”

Reynolds got in touch with the Iowa Elk’s Association, and it agreed to donate $8,500 to buy another dog for the fire marshal’s office.

Then, he got in touch with Gundlach, telling him that he needed to come to the state Capitol in Des Moines on Friday to plead his case before a “bureaucratic oversight committee.”

Gundlach, 25, showed up with his parents.

Reynolds told Gundlach the meeting had been delayed, but invited he and his parents to attend an Armed Services Day celebration in the rotunda.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilians were already there, and knew — unlike Gundlach — what was about to happen.

That’s when Casey appeared.

A ceremony was held in which Gov. Terry Branstad officially retired Casey from active duty, thanking her for “a job well done.”

Casey was given to Gundlach, who put his head in his hands and cried.

“It was a total surprise,” he said. “I owe her. I’ll just try to give her the best life I can.” During the 150 missions they performed together, Gundlach said Casey never missed an explosive. He credits her for making it back home safely. “I wouldn’t be here … any kids I ever had wouldn’t exist if Casey hadn’t been here,” he said.

His father, Glen Gundlach, seemed just as surprised.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The state of Iowa, I love ‘em.”

(Photos: Charlie Neibergall / AP)

“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.”

The dog that ate Osama Bin Laden

Details are few, and there’s been no government confirmation, but that’s not stopping most major media outlets from reporting that a dog was a member of the assault team that killed Osama Bin Laden Sunday — and even prematurely pronouncing the dog a hero.

“Hero Dog Helped Snare Bin Laden,” read the headline of a story in yesterday’s Sun that called the dog “a fearless four legged hero.”

The Sun, in a report the New York Times seemed to confirm,  said an explosive-sniffing dog was strapped to one of the 79 assault team members lowered down ropes from three Black Hawk helicopters into Bin Laden’s hideout in the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“Little is known about what may be the nation’s most courageous dog,” said the New York Times article. “Even its breed is the subject of intense interest, although it was likely a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, according to military sources.”

The rest of the Times story recounts the military’s increasing use of, and growing dependence on, dogs — primarily because of their skill in finding improvised explosive devices. But it sheds no light on the alleged dog’s involvement in the raid.

Slate, meanwhile, in a similarly speculative article, reports that a dog was along on the raid, then notes there has been no confirmation that a dog was involved in the raid:

“The special operations forces do have their own canine training program, but it’s very hush-hush. Furthermore, neither the Pentagon nor the White House is talking about the role the dog played in Sunday’s operation, and they haven’t even confirmed that a dog was involved at all.”

The news media loves a good hero dog story — and I do too, when it’s true — but before we start calling this anonymous military dog a hero we might want to have some facts, like what the dog did, and whether he (or she) was even there.

Evacuating Japan: Will pets be left behind?

Will families of American military personnel in Japan be forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuate?

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is seeking the anwer to that question.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the non-profit organization asks for a clarification of the U.S. government’s policy on whether or not military families can bring their pets with them — or must be forced to choose between staying in harm’s way and abandoning a beloved companion.

Family members of military personnel stationed in Japan began evacuating today amid the increasing threat of radioactivity in the wake of last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

ALDF says it has received desperate emails from some of them, who say they’ve been informed pets will not be allowed on evacuation planes chartered by the U.S. Department of State.

“In a context of terrifying natural and nuclear disasters, with military personnel and their families already being separated from each other, we would hope that the U.S. government would not place an additional burden on military families by disregarding the very real bonds they have with their animal companions” said Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation.

“It is our hope that the tragedy of people forced to abandon beloved pets in order to evacuate to safety, which we saw play out on a heartbreaking scale during Hurricane Katrina, is not replicated during the current crisis in Japan.”

ALDF says it has heard from numerous families who say they are hesitant to evacuate from the escalating radiation danger if they are required to leave their pets behind.

Some families have turned to Facebook for help, including Mariaelena Rodriguez Geoffray, shown above with her dog, Bella. Seeking a commercial flight, she has been told by two airlines that temperatures are too cold to fly a pet.

Her dilemma is recounted on the blog Two Little Cavaliers.

There are about 43,000 dependents of American military personnel living in Japan.

Soldier and his dog die hours apart

Three hours after Lance Corporal  Liam Tasker was shot and killed in Afghanistan, his bomb-sniffing dog suffered a seizure and died.

Tasker, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, was shot while on patrol in Helmand province on March 1. His bomb-sniffing springer spaniel, Theo — though not physically injured in that incident —  died three hours later.

“I would like to believe he (Theo) died of a broken heart to be with Liam,” said Tasker’s mother, Jane Duffy.

This week, as the soldier’s body came home, hundreds of mourners lined the main street to pay respects to both dog and master, the Telegraph reported.

The body of Tasker, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and the ashes of Theo had earlier been flown back in the same aircraft.

Tasker suffered fatal injuries in a firefight with the Taliban, while Theo died after returning to Camp Bastion, the main British military base. Tasker was the 358th member of the British Armed Forces to die since operations in Afghanistan began; Theo was the sixth British military dog killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

Theo, not quite two years old, had drawn praise for detecting 14 hidden bombs and weapons caches in just five months on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. His  success at finding Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) led to his stay in the country being extended for a month.

Tasker was said to have a “natural empathy with dogs” and was described as a “rising star” within the dog training group. The pair were said to be “made for each other.”

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