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Infidel Man's Best Friend: He Saves Our Soldiers' Lives in the Badlands of the Dar al Islam and He Saves Their Sanity After They Come Home
A set of poignant stories from the English and Australian press.
This Remembrance Day, I may well wear a purple poppy: and when I do, it will not simply be in honour of animals who have served in war, such as the horses who carried our cavalry and Light Horsemen from Egypt to Damascus in 1917, or the homing pigeons that carried messages in both WWI and WWII, but specifically in honour of all those dogs that, in the past ten years and more, not only with Americans and their allies in the badlands of the Dar al Islam, in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also accompanying and guiding and protecting IDF soldiers in the booby-trapped labyrinths of Gaza, and on the home front in many Infidel lands, have been saving lives. Whose role in Infidel self-defence against the resurgent Global Jihad is perhaps more central than it has been at any other time in history. Dogs, whom Mohammed hated and gave orders to kill; dogs, that orthodox Islam despises and anathematises.
The first story has no link. It appeared in a provincial newspaper in suburban Australia, the Northside Chronicle. There it was that I found out about the Purple Poppies. It was accompanied by a lovely photo of a young Australian soldier in uniform, Sapper Jonathan Waite, with his fine black bomb dog, "Louie" (and we might remember that in the Hadiths, devout Muslims are taught that the black dog is "Satan").
"Bomb Dogs Honoured With Their Own Purple Poppy".
"Louie the Labrador might have two extra legs and a little more hair than most other soldiers, but his work has been just as crucial both at home and overseas.
"Louie is one of more than two dozen bomb dogs at Gallipoli Barracks and his best workmate, 7th Brigade 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment Sapper Jonathan Waite said he's delighted the public can show their support for service animals by buying a purple poppy....
"From the last conflicts that we've had (bomb detection dogs) saved dozens of lives. I was a high-risk searcher in Afghanistan and having them in front of you when you were searching was added security - I see him as any other soldier because he's doing as much work as anyone else", Sapper Waite said.
"The Purple Poppies are designed to be worn alongside the traditional red blooms...
"Most service dogs are rescued from animal shelters."
Note the passing reference to "more than two dozen" 'bomb dogs'. That's just one army barracks, just one part of the Australian Army; one must assume that there are dozens more, working mostly with sappers, army engineers, to detect and clear bombs and booby-traps. Then think of all the dogs that work with the Americans, the English, the Canadians.
And that brings me to the second item I would like to bring to people's attention, a Daily Mail review of the book "War Dogs", by Rebecca Frankel.
'War Dogs' by Rebecca Frankel details the amazing acts of heroism by the canines who serve in the US military...
"War dogs courageously brave the spray of poisonous gas, the deafening blast of nearby bombs, or a hit of shrapnel to stay by the side of their handlers. In the Iraq war, dogs were brought in to sniff out roadside bombs, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and risked their own lives to protect their handler and soldiers in their unit.
'The bond between the canines in service to their country and the servicemen and women they support is an immutable trust between the two that neither one wants to betray. It can be called loyalty but it's also the deepest love...
"When a dog protects his handler he is also protecting himself". This courage is born out of love.
'Dogs have gone to war as mascots since the [American] Civil War. They were officially adopted into military ranks in the United States in 1942 with the Army's "Dogs for Defence" program that saw 10,000 dogs working in World War II.
"In the Vietnam War, from 1964 to 1973, military working dogs proved to be so successful at tracking, guarding and protecting American lives and derailing surprise enemy attacks, bounties upwards of $20,000 were placed on their heads.
"In Iraq and Afghanistan, dogs were successfully deployed to detect IEDs..
"Before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, Sergeant John Mariana had to give his 8 year old Belgian Malinois, Bronco, an IV drip to keep him hydrated in the arid climate.
"On the pair's first night out on this new assignment, they found 4 explosives, 3 of them deadly IEDs. Typically Mariana and Bronco had his head close to the ground and moved ahead of the unit at night, sniffing for an odor, an explosive.
"Watching Bronco closely for the detection signal, Mariana was startled by the abrupt appearance of a man suddenly ten feet away, and pointing an AK-47. Mariana popped the leash and Bronco lunged at the enemy, sinking his teeth into his upper torso. The man aimed his AK-47 and fired at the 65-pound dog.
"The unit moved in on him while Bronco ran off. Expecting a severe head wound, Mariana found his dog sitting around the corner of a building. He had been hit in the face by the bullet that entered one side of his mouth and dissolved the right side of his muzzle, shattering nose bone and fracturing teeth.
"While waiting for Medevac to airlift the pair to a hospital in Kandahar, Mariana held the severely wounded dog in his arms...On landing there was no waiting ambulance. Mariana pulled the dog up onto his shoulders and ran with Bronco to the main hospital. After a five hour surgery [one may note that there are army veterinary surgeons serving with the US, Canadian, Australian and other allied forces - CM] Bronco was stable and the prognosis was good, but the dog and Mariana were transferred to Bagram, one of the largest US bases in the country. En route, Marian held the dog's head on his chest and held his mouth open so he could breathe. Two more surgeries replaced sections of the dog's nose...More surgery was required back in the States, and throughout the ordeal, Mariana was heartsick, separated from the dog that had saved his life..For five months he fought to get Bronco back. When finally reunited, Mariana held his dog - whose nose now whistled like a tea-kettle - and cried...".
Another story, under a photo, reads: "Seaman James L Louck waits for his next assignment with Molly, his IEDD (Improvised Explosive Detector Dog) at an Afghan Uniformed Police security post in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Handlers agreed that the dogs on service missions acted as a talisman and protected them from unforeseen horrors as well as dispelling any loneliness.
And another: "US Air Force Staff Sergeant Sean Lulofs on patrol with MWD Aaslan in Iraq in 2004. Aaslan, a Belgian Malinois, was a tough working dog and his handler, Lulofs, believed that he survived the war because of luck and Aaslan, who became his emotion crutch through deployment in Fallujah. Some days were so bad, he put his head on Aaslan's shoulder and wept."
"In spring 2010, in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Justin Kitts, along with twenty other members of the 101st Airborne, geared up and headed out to track the enemy with his detection dog, Dyngo, a 7 year old Belgian Malinois.
"Reacting to something buried, while facing fire from the enemy they couldn't see, a deafening rocket propelled grenade exploded ten feet from Dyngo. The dog let out a high whining sound and collapsed to his stomach. For the first time, he was afraid of the violent noise. Kitts broke off a branch from a tree and placed it under Dyngo's nose so he could gnaw on it. It settled his nerves.
"Dyngo was soon back on duty, sniffing the road and grass and quickly got onto a second bomb that had been buried two feet underground - two jugs each packed with fifty pounds of explosives. Air support was called in and the enemy retreated. "Everyone in that patrol had been in the kill zone - not once, but twice. If it had not been for Dyngo, they might all be dead", writes the author.
'But protection and courage during battle are not the only way these dogs serve the military.
'Prevalent among returning servicemen and women, post-traumatic stress syndrome - PTSD - has reached epidemic levels in returning US warriors, affecting up to one in five. One way of dealing with it is through canine therapy that offers calm and unconditional loving companionship to soldiers struggling with even getting out of bed. Sara Hook, former chief ot he Wwarrior Transition Brigade's Occupational Therapy Department at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC, "believes this soldier will say that it was the dogs...that made the difference.". With a dog, there was a decrease in prescriptions for pain, anxiety and depression for the soldier...
A little more history, from the same article: "When scout dogs were being sent to Vietnam in 1965, they reportedly saved more than 2000 lives. More requests for dogs to accompany units on missions had to be refused, because there weren't enough dogs. They were "the only weapon system [the military] ever devised to save lives", stated Jesse Mendez, who headed up the scout dog program at Fort Benning, Georgia, during the Vietnam War.
"First thing is, trust your dog", Marine Corporal Eric Roethler said, "You trust your dog, you follow him where he goes. If you don't trust your dog, you need to rethink your situation. You should have total faith to trust and walk behind him."
And for more on the healing effect of dogs upon stressed-out veterans, not only in the USA but in Australia, this article that appeared recently in the ABC.
"Hounds 4 Healing: Canine Powers Help Old Dogs of War Deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"The love and loyalty of a pet dog is proving to be remarkably effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among former soldiers in North Queensland.
'The Hounds 4 Healing group was set up by former soldier Matt Campbell.
'He was wounded during tours of Aghanistan and was diagnosed with PTSD when he returned home.
'"I sort of fell in a big black hole", he said. "You don't want to go out of the house, you don't want to drive anywhere. I became angry with the world, I became angry with my family". Mr Campbell said he turned to his dog, Bobby, to help with his recovery, and found the change in his condition was remarkable. "If I didn't have Bob, I don't think I'd be here", he said. "She allows me to get out and about and do stuff, but if I start to have dramas, all I have to do is concentrate on her, even by hanging onto her collar or just by patting her, she'll just bring me back to there".
'The Hounds 4 Healing program has linked rescued and street dogs with PTSD sufferers in Townsville.
'The program's been supported by the trauma recovery centre run by the Townsville Mater Hospita.
'Jane Keast from the centre said thousands of ex-soldiers suffered from mental illness. "It's a big issue. The statistics that float around is between 5 and 12 percent of people in the military will develop PTSD", she said..
"Ms Keast said she had noticed the healing powers of the dogs. She said the animals brought about a remarkable change in the recovery process. "Not only do they help get people out into the community and doing things that they might not normally feel comfortable doing, they also help ground people", she said. "If you just lean down, pat your dog, and just connect with the dog, it's the reality of what's happening here and now. It takes you out of that hyper-aroused state which a lot of people with PTSD experience."
'Mr Campbell said he would like to see the program expanded across the country. "On my darkest, darkest days Bob's been the only light in the tunnel", he said..".
I think it appropriate to conclude with some verses from "The Prayer of the Dog", by French nun Carmen Bernos de Gasztold, which may be found in her book of poems, "Prayers from the Ark", as translated by Rumer Godden.
"Lord, I keep watch!
"If I am not here
who will guard their house?
Watch over their sheep?
No-one but You and I
what faithfulness is...
"I keep watch!
do not let me die
until, for them,
all danger is driven away.