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Dogs of War: The Bond Between Soldiers and Stray Canines in Afghanistan

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March 23, 2011

Dogs of War: The Bond Between Soldiers and Stray Canines in Afghanistan

By Chad Love

"No one can fully understand the meaning of love unless he's owned a dog. A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes." —Gene Hill

I doubt we'll ever know, in any clinical or scientific sense, what draws us to dogs so fiercely; what compels us to seek out their companionship, even in the most harrowing of circumstances. But we do. Because no matter how bad things are, no matter how bad things might get, the presence of a dog somehow makes things seem a little better. A scratch behind the ear, the wag of a tail, a warm body curled up at your feet; pharmaceutical companies would pay any price to synthesize how that makes us feel. But of course you can't just manufacture that kind of emotion and stuff it in a pill. It comes from a place pharmacology can't yet touch. That's why half a world away, in a place of constant death and misery, our soldiers still seek out dogs.

Here is a fascinating and poignant New York Times video about the bond between American soldiers in Afghanistan and the stray dogs they adopt.

They're living in a war zone, with every facet of life cut to the bare minimum, every day another walk on the ragged edge. And yet a dog is right there walking it beside them. If that's not a reason to love your dog even more I don't know what is.

Comments (16)

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from dogwood wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Karl Marlantes epic Viet Nam war novel, Matterhorn, has two minor characters that appear throughout the book. Arran is a Marine dog handler for Pat, a scout dog. Arran keeps re-enlisting for combat tours to stay with Pat knowing he will be put to sleep if he leaves VN.
Here's an excerpt from the book about Arran and Pat:
http://tinyurl.com/4e3pvzt

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ChandlerV1997 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

My dogs always make me feel good, whether it's cheering me up or giving me a laugh.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jakenbake wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I miss the heck out of my dog. Can't wait to get another. Good to see that our guys overseas can find some sort of solace in that mess over there.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago
from SD_Whitetail_Hntr wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

My stepbrother's unit had found a stray dog in Afghanistan last year and took it in, playing with him every chance they got. I can't even explain how much his attitude noticeably changed when they got that dog. There was so much more positive outlook in his emails and phone calls while they had that dog. And then the unit told them the dog was a hazard and they had it put down on the base. Every one of those boys was devastated and very much pissed about that. Was very sad to hear about. But at least they got some time with a good dog to give them some postive feelings amidst absolute garbage.

Thanks 211th Eng Co (Sappers)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bjohnston wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I understand, dogs make situations better.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

the only bad thing is when the soldiers have to leave the dog.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

A friend who returned early from Afghanistan last year due to unforeseen health issues told me that they had been warned to stay away from all dogs there due to the potential for rabies. Apparently at least in portions of that country there exists feral dogs whose population is mostly controlled by this disease and others. My friend said that during Russian occupation there was a great effort to kill all the feral canines but they were unsuccessful. The favorite hunting sites were near cemeteries where the graves are shallow and the dogs have easy digging for a meal at night.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MNflyfisher wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

devil dogs with a good companion, oorah

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DW101_194 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

A dependant child that lived in our housing area had a dog when we were stationed in Panama in 92, I think everybody in the unit claimed that dog as theirs, I can't tell you how many pictures I have of somebody holding that dog and taking care of it after it got its leg broken by a speeding cab. Sure hated to leave him behind when we left, I don't remember the child, but I will never forget the dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from cmadawg wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Ive heard of feral dogs eating the dead bodies of soldiers. Don't know if there's any truth to it or not. I wouldn't want to go over there and find out. If there is truth to it and the Russians really wanted to kill all the feral dogs, they would just need to kill some Taliban soldiers first.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rcmich wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Dogs are special because their love is unconditional. They don't care about your day, they don't care about your past. They live in the here and now and love you just because.

I'm sure you've all heard the old joke about how to tell who's your best friend, your dog or your "significant other"...put them both in the trunk of your car and drive around for an hour. Open the trunk and see which one is happy as he77 to see you!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dougl7439 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

When I was in Vietnam we had stray dogs as pets.They did not like the Vietnamese,they great companions.One of the dogs could even climb a ladder up into the guard towers. they were good for moral.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from limey101 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Having dogs as companions over seas was a great stress reliever, too bad the military always followed it up by killing off all the dogs, except for the ones that were given media exposure and were untouchable.

Bodies of soldiers were never left where they fell. The feral dog story is BS.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from life long archer wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

We too had a dog on our combat outpost in Afghanistan. One of our Soldiers' wife working with a vet so we got all the meds, rabies, heart worm, mange and fleas to vaccinate amd medicate him and he ate very well, probably the healthiest dog in theater. I have never met a better dog, and doubt I ever will, he sure won our hearts and minds. He would leave the outpost to use the latrine, never within the wire, never entered the tent but slept at the door, never begged or snatched food but would wait patiently for us to feed him and I know he would give his life to protect us. He would walk guard duty with me every night and if there was something out there that wasn't American, he would go on alert and let us know. We left him in good hands and I hope he is still doing well. Lord, I do miss that dog-

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from royrogers wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

While I was in Vietnam, I found a half grown pup that someone has poured gasoline on and set on fire. From right behind his shoulders back he was burned. I found an Army vet and got treatment for him, I had him for 8 months before I came home. It really hurt me to leave him, and I have often thought of him and what happened to him after I left.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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from jamesti wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

the only bad thing is when the soldiers have to leave the dog.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from life long archer wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

We too had a dog on our combat outpost in Afghanistan. One of our Soldiers' wife working with a vet so we got all the meds, rabies, heart worm, mange and fleas to vaccinate amd medicate him and he ate very well, probably the healthiest dog in theater. I have never met a better dog, and doubt I ever will, he sure won our hearts and minds. He would leave the outpost to use the latrine, never within the wire, never entered the tent but slept at the door, never begged or snatched food but would wait patiently for us to feed him and I know he would give his life to protect us. He would walk guard duty with me every night and if there was something out there that wasn't American, he would go on alert and let us know. We left him in good hands and I hope he is still doing well. Lord, I do miss that dog-

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from MNflyfisher wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

devil dogs with a good companion, oorah

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dougl7439 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

When I was in Vietnam we had stray dogs as pets.They did not like the Vietnamese,they great companions.One of the dogs could even climb a ladder up into the guard towers. they were good for moral.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dogwood wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Karl Marlantes epic Viet Nam war novel, Matterhorn, has two minor characters that appear throughout the book. Arran is a Marine dog handler for Pat, a scout dog. Arran keeps re-enlisting for combat tours to stay with Pat knowing he will be put to sleep if he leaves VN.
Here's an excerpt from the book about Arran and Pat:
http://tinyurl.com/4e3pvzt

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jakenbake wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I miss the heck out of my dog. Can't wait to get another. Good to see that our guys overseas can find some sort of solace in that mess over there.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from SD_Whitetail_Hntr wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

My stepbrother's unit had found a stray dog in Afghanistan last year and took it in, playing with him every chance they got. I can't even explain how much his attitude noticeably changed when they got that dog. There was so much more positive outlook in his emails and phone calls while they had that dog. And then the unit told them the dog was a hazard and they had it put down on the base. Every one of those boys was devastated and very much pissed about that. Was very sad to hear about. But at least they got some time with a good dog to give them some postive feelings amidst absolute garbage.

Thanks 211th Eng Co (Sappers)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DW101_194 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

A dependant child that lived in our housing area had a dog when we were stationed in Panama in 92, I think everybody in the unit claimed that dog as theirs, I can't tell you how many pictures I have of somebody holding that dog and taking care of it after it got its leg broken by a speeding cab. Sure hated to leave him behind when we left, I don't remember the child, but I will never forget the dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from limey101 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Having dogs as companions over seas was a great stress reliever, too bad the military always followed it up by killing off all the dogs, except for the ones that were given media exposure and were untouchable.

Bodies of soldiers were never left where they fell. The feral dog story is BS.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ChandlerV1997 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

My dogs always make me feel good, whether it's cheering me up or giving me a laugh.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago
from bjohnston wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I understand, dogs make situations better.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

A friend who returned early from Afghanistan last year due to unforeseen health issues told me that they had been warned to stay away from all dogs there due to the potential for rabies. Apparently at least in portions of that country there exists feral dogs whose population is mostly controlled by this disease and others. My friend said that during Russian occupation there was a great effort to kill all the feral canines but they were unsuccessful. The favorite hunting sites were near cemeteries where the graves are shallow and the dogs have easy digging for a meal at night.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cmadawg wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Ive heard of feral dogs eating the dead bodies of soldiers. Don't know if there's any truth to it or not. I wouldn't want to go over there and find out. If there is truth to it and the Russians really wanted to kill all the feral dogs, they would just need to kill some Taliban soldiers first.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rcmich wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Dogs are special because their love is unconditional. They don't care about your day, they don't care about your past. They live in the here and now and love you just because.

I'm sure you've all heard the old joke about how to tell who's your best friend, your dog or your "significant other"...put them both in the trunk of your car and drive around for an hour. Open the trunk and see which one is happy as he77 to see you!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from royrogers wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

While I was in Vietnam, I found a half grown pup that someone has poured gasoline on and set on fire. From right behind his shoulders back he was burned. I found an Army vet and got treatment for him, I had him for 8 months before I came home. It really hurt me to leave him, and I have often thought of him and what happened to him after I left.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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