Friday, February 07, 2014

Poor Dog. Poor Us. Poor World

from Jacqueline

"You think those dogs will not be in heaven! I tell you they will be there long before any of us."  Robert Louis Stevenson

Have you all seen the photos and video footage of that poor military dog kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan?  It breaks your heart, doesn’t it?  Just look at those soulful eyes, and look at that tail – just the end of the tail gives a little shiver of a wag when the Taliban fighter touches it with his weapon.  He knows, doesn’t he?  He knows that he’s not safe, that he’s not with his handler, that he's away from the pack and that his job is probably done.  Unless a Special Forces team of Belgian Malinois are dropped in to free him, there will be no easy retirement with his handler’s kids and a K9 medal for good service.  Those photos make me weep.

It’s not just that I love dogs, but perhaps more because I’ve always had rescue dogs – I have walked the hard concrete pathways of death row at animal control shelters knowing I can only take one home – that I know soulful despair in the eyes of a dog when I see it.  In some ways I feel guilty about my sadness at seeing this video – after all, how many children have been killed in Syria?  10,000?  “Every war is a war against the child,” said Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save The Children Fund.  And it’s true – wars kill not only children, but the child in all of us.  They kill innocence, and innocence is always writ large on the eyes of an animal.  There is no guile in the response of a dog to an event – whether it be the promise of a walk, a ride in the car, food being put down, a reprimand or the homecoming of its guardian – and that photograph says so much about war, I think.

In the eyes of that dog, we see a glimpse into the heart of every serviceman and woman on the front lines of conflict.  Sure, the YouTube videos of soldiers larking about during down-times in a war zone are great to watch and make us feel good, and we are swept away by footage of brave soldiers fighting in our name.  We can hold our hands to our hearts and weep when we see movies like “Taking Chance” about the repatriation of a fallen solder, or when we see limbless veterans waving flags from their wheelchairs on July 4th.  But what does it feel like to be at war, to feel – sometimes – as if no one at home quite understands what it’s like to be you - except perhaps those in close proximity.

In the eyes of a captured dog I think we can see into right into the damaged souls of children caught in conflict in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Africa.  We can see into the hearts of our servicemen and women, and we can see the fears of their loved ones at home.  That dog is a lens for us all to look into, right there.

The military dog “Colonel” (no name was given, but apparently the dog had been named after a colonel) was kidnapped because he was doing a darn good job with the coalition forces. Military dogs are a big pain in the ass to the Taliban - a few years ago a British military dog, Treo, had a massive price on his head, because he was so effective in snoovering out bombs (dog owners will know about snoovering - it's that cross between a sniff and a Hoover).  Treo's retired now, lucky dog.  The bonus for Colonel’s captors is that his loss has touched us all where it really hurts – in the deepest place of our hearts.  War has come home this week – every time we look at our family and friends, at our kids, our horses and dogs and cats, and we know they are safe and with us, it will remind us – I hope – about the families parted, about the men, women and children in very unsafe places, and the animals who serve to protect us.

Now then, have a good weekend.  Say a prayer for a good dog.  

PS:  And if you want to read a mystery/thriller with a great K9 character who will really show you what a military dog is made of, then read Robert Crais "Suspect."  You will never forget Maggie, ever.

*Note - at time of first writing this post, news reports suggested the dog was working with "coalition forces."  Then the dog became American.  Now it seems it's a British dog.  This from a news report:  "A spokesman declined to comment on the nationality of the dog."  That's just as well, because it doesn't matter to the dog. Last year an American rescued an Australian military dog kidnapped by the Taliban - not known to be ardent dog-lovers, I might add. I am sure the dog in question didn't care about nationality, and would probably have given a g'day wag to any rescuer.  I mean, was there ever a sillier conversation?  Dogs know what really matters.


  1. James O. Born2/07/2014 1:50 PM

    Great post, Jackie. I've been interested in military and police dogs for a long time now.

    I think British dogs have better accents.

    1. from Jacqueline - I guessed you would be a fan of military and police dogs, Jim. British dogs may have better accents, but as the handler of famed British war-dog Treo said in his book about the dog, when he was in Afghanistan, he was impressed that the American military considers its dogs to be "soldiers" alongside all other service people. While British handlers love and respect their dogs every bit as much and have great success with them - the government will not generally bend over backwards for a dog to be saved. Much to the chagrin of handlers, and indeed a nation of dog-lovers!

  2. I was sick when I saw this. Hope they know that if they harm that dog, something very very bad will happen to them.

    1. from Jacqueline: As one blogger noted - it will start a war! That was tongue in cheek and a pretty bad joke, but it underlines how people feel about the kidnapping. And as one person noted - handlers don't give up on their dogs easily - it is likely that his handler was killed. Tragic. And if he wasn't, then he must be devastated.