A Boy and his Dog

a boy and his dog poem

The boy broke his run at the entrance to the park and, panting heavily he leaned forward, hands on nobly knees. A trickle of sweat ran down his ripe cheeks; another drop just missed its show, landing in the dirt. The boy watched as his breath stirred the sand at his feet; for an instant, it rolled into tiny balls.

A dog radiating as much heat as the boy, tongue hanging loose, was already there, panting underneath the thick shade on the first tree. The boy’s cheeks were a match for the dog’s exhaustion, hot and red. If one’s shirt was darkened along the middle, at the back, and had dark patches underarms, the other one’s body felt like a well stocked furnace.

“You win again, boy!” the child half croaked, half laughed, stretching to caress his best friend’s head. The fur behind the ears was still soft, like a pups’.

At the water fountain nearby the boy pressed the chrome lever then stepped sideways, allowing his dog to drink first. A red tongue lapped greedily until the dog’s entire head looked like a Christmas tree, a perfect tiny water bauble balancing at the end of each hair. The boy laughed, his lips almost pasted together by the thickness of his saliva. So thirsty! Only when the dog stopped did the boy bent over the cooling spring, yet his eyes remained on the giant fur-ball.

Sparkling and sweet, the water felt like a balm sliding down his burning throat. New life pumped through his body and the boy half closed his eyes, sighing with satisfaction.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw his dog using a front paw, then the other, wiping the water droplets off his fur. In his eagerness he seemed to be dancing. The boy burst in laughter and water splashed all over face and his hair. He laughed further as he drank. And the dog sneezed then surrendered to the shade.

a happy dog - poetry by Patricia Furstenberg

A playful breeze was fanning the leaves overhead. Their rustle had accompanied the two since they woke up that morning. Life was a holiday song. The summer seemed to be stretching endlessly, filled with possibilities. They could do anything they wanted, go any place they wished, and at any time – as long as Mother knew and they returned by supper. After all, it was the first day of summer holiday.

In the shade of the big tree there was a boy, a ball, and, of course, a dog.  Quite enough to fill an entire summer with excitement.

The dog’s tail wagged and the boy laughed. Or the boy laughed first, the two were interconnected.

The dog’s eyes followed the boy’s, reading his mind. This was a two way street.

The dog shot up as the boy stepped sideways; the dog’s tail wagged like a helicopter’s blade. The dog’s eyes were focused low, intent on the boy’s foot. The boy’s leg went swinging backwards, then forward, towards the ball. The ball flew off this earth and, at exactly the same time, the dog left the earth too, his body a spring stretching towards the sky. 

Ball and dog chased the sun’s rays further and further away. Only one could win this race and both boy and dog knew which one will that be. The boy squinted as a ray of sun forced its way between the thick foliage above.

The tires screeched like a teacher’s chalk on the blackboard, leaving a question in the air – one you did not study for. The noise was out of place in this holiday with a ball, a boy, and a dog. The boy opened his mouth to call, yet he could not remember what words to use so he chocked on air. His legs were moving like they had a mind on their own, sprinting towards the road. All the boy wished for was to have wings to reach it faster.

There was no movement, just a light shadow against the black tar. And the contrast didn’t made sense, light on dark.

The scorching tar smelled of petroleum with a hinge of burned tires.

The dog, his dog, his best friend, lay under the scorching heat. There is shade under the tree, went through the boy’s mind as he circled the area.

First thing he notices were his friend’s eyes, closed. But the chest was moving! Lifting and dropping in sudden jerks. Yet the tail didn’t move when the boy collapsed nearby, senseless to the rough road scraping his bare knees.

No bleeding because his heart is so strong, thought the boy, his hands hovering over the fur, not daring to touch.

It was the first time ever, in eight months since the two were together, that the dog’s tail didn’t wag at the sound of his master’s footsteps. Only a triangle-shaped nose stretched towards the boy’s hand. It was dry and hot against the boy’s wet fingers. The dog licked them, his tongue raspy.

A trickle of sound reached as far as the boy’s ears.

a dog's paw-print on our hearts

The vet was whispering and his mother was sighing, her eyes red, yet the boy felt no fear of the big words being used: paralytic, quality of life, euthanasia. He knew what he had to do next. He had damaged his dog and somehow he was going to fix him.

All that mattered right now was that his dog was alive. The rest, he’ll figure out, make a plan, like his dad always did. The man with a plan. as his friends called him and always relied on him.

Yes, he’ll make a plan. His dog relied on him.

It’s been an accident, his mother had said. Yet she wouldn’t stop crying, trying to explain to him why his dog, his best friend, had to be put to sleep. Whatever being put to sleep meant.

And why was it that grownups only could decide on behalf of a dog?

Just because his dog couldn’t use his hind legs anymore? Put to sleep? You don’t do that to humans, do you?! You buy them wheels. The mailman had one set with a seat on them and, boy was he fast, delivering newspapers quicker than before his crash. Also a car, an “accident”.

And his grandma had a set of wheels too, with a seat and a frame, for when she went shopping.

People always got things when they got injured.

So he carried his dog home that night, the boy did. He laid him gently on his bed, arranged pillows around so that he won’t roll over and fall, not that his dog could move at all, then he fell asleep in the armchair, next to the bed.

And the next day, while his parents were at work, he carried his dog into the garage, carefully laying him down on a blanket taken from his bed.

He’d broken his dog and now he was going to fix him.

He always thought of his dad’s garage as of Aladdin’s treasure cave. You were sure to find just what you were looking for – if you only dug deep enough.

So he dug and he thought, all the time talking to his dog, like he always used to. Asking him questions, waiting for a bark in reply, acknowledging his dog’s point of view.

At one stage he stopped and listened. He thought he’d heard his dog’s tail thumping, like it always did when… before… So he popped his head from behind a pile of boxes, the shape of a smile on his face.

Nothing. The tail was as still as it’s been since the dire incident.

Yet the dog’s head cocked to one side, question in his eyes. The boy blinked away a tear.

a dog's eyes speak volumes. books by Patricia Furstenberg

“So much dust here, boy, it gets in your eyes, you know.”

He knew his first bicycle was still there, somewhere. Found it underneath a pile of old bags. He carried it slowly to where his dog was laying, for a good sniff all over, especially the training wheels.

“We want these, boy! Good boy!” he exclaimed. The tail didn’t wag, but he knew his dog was excited; he could see it in the bright eyes and the tip of those fury ears pointed at the bicycle.

The training wheels, a couple of old copper pipes, some scraps of cloth to cover them with and a wide piece of leather for a comfy seat lay beside the dog. The boy’s heart thumped, pumped up with hope. He’d planned this all last night.

He’ll build his dog a set of wheels. For his hind body and legs, to support them when they will go for walks and, maybe, even runs again.

The summer was not even half way through, it’s end still far out of sight. The days were long and full of exciting, endless possibilities for a dog on wheels and his boy.

boy dog

~ Somehow, all my books include a dog – or are about dogs! ~
Find them all on Amazon UK, Amazon US, or use this universal Amazon link.

You might also enjoy reading:

Read the opening pages of Silent Heroes

Dogs, Man’s Best Friend, as Illustrated by Art, From Once Upon a Time to the 20th Century

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Survey: Effect of Pets on Immune Systems

Effect of Pets on the Immune Systems

Effect of Pets on Immune Systems is a Life Science project of a grade 12 pupil (my daughter).

Please consider spending five minutes of your time to answer her questions. She needs at least 25 more subjects so if you can pass it on, please do!

No matter what happens in the world, school goes on.

This is the link to the survey. Thank you so much!

You will need to be logged into your Google account.

More info on Effect of Pets on Immune Systems:

Research Question:

Does having a pet, or pets, in the home environment as a baby increase the strength of a high-school student’s immune system?

Hypothesis:

Pets can supply a constant low-dose exposure to microbes that can induce illnesses and therefore increases the strength of a child’s immune system, thus their immune system as a high-school student is stronger than high-school students who did not have pets in their home as children.

Aim:

To determine whether or not having pets around as a baby increases a high-school student’s immune system.

Excerpt:

“In a journal Pediatrics, researchers concluded that exposure to pet dander and microbes that pets carry inside from outdoors can help better develop babies’ immune systems. The immune systems learn from a young age how to protect the body from common allergens, bacteria and viruses.”

Thank you once again 🙂

As a reward, you can find captivating articles about pets – I admit, mostly dogs – on this page of my blog or read a short piece: Pets — Understanding Your Child’s Affinity Towards Animals. But do complete the online survey first 🙂

As Good as Gold – Why, Hedgehog?

a dog by a stream

Just over the meadow, just over the hill,
Where the grass is greener and the stream runs slow,
There’s a spot that many walk past and few really know.
Here’s where puppy likes to go and explore.

He came here today,
He’s here right now.
Oh, puppy,
Watch out!

Just over the meadow, were the trees grow tall
And the shade is thick and the grass is soft,
Puppy rolls all over then he lies dead, sloshed.
This is his kingdom; he’s the King, the servant and the fool…

But something’s new in the grass today…
Ouch!
It pricked his nose
And his behind.

Just over the meadow and right down the hill
A puppy yelps and licks his snout; something’s amiss!
His Kingdom’s been invaded, time for attack!
The growl troops are summoned while the tail’s tugged for retreat…

Puppy tiptoes,
Takes a peek.
Sniffs carefully….
What IS that squeak?

Just over the meadow, hidden in the green, lush grass,
A creature as small as a… ball wanders about.
Not quite round, with pointy nose and… needles, no doubt!
“What is the use of those?” barks puppy from afar.

Two beady eyes
Smile at pup.
“What is the use of a tail?”
The creature asks.

Just over the meadow, right down the hill,
A puppy and a hedgehog sit together, two chums.
And chat of this and laugh at that, mostly insects and bugs,
Then they both roll around, each one on his meadow half.

For a Kingdom at war is of use to none.
Better share and make friends with your strange neighbour,
Enjoy together a snack, there are plenty about
And share the shade, lots of it to go around.

© Patricia Furstenberg

As Good as Gold - dog poems
As Good as Gold – Why, Hedgehog? by Patricia Furstenberg

Some reviews for As Good as Gold, that Why Hedgehog is an extract from:

“A super sweet and poignant book of poetry about what a pup thinks of his world. As a cat lover I especially was tickled by his relationship to the cat. Any dog lover would adore this book. The photos were appealing. Haikus at the end were tiny diamonds.” (Kathryn Meyer Griffith, long time author)

“There is something truly magical about this wonderful collection” (Susan Day, Editor and Author)

The Soldier and his Dog, Silent Heroes

Silent Heroes of war

Early in the morning when the sky’s still dark

And no lively ray has yet pierced the night,

When all are sleeping and all is still,

When no wind blows and no bird sings,

So early in the morning –

The soldier wakes up.

soldier dog silent heroes

He’ll say a prayer for family and friends,

For the day to come and the day that went,

For those who fought and those who fell,

For himself

And for his best friend –

His dog.

soldier and dog pray together. silent heroes

Early in the morning in a quiet yard,

Under the cover of stars and the silence above,

Early in the morning they share a meal,

A hug, a game, a kiss, a lick.

For a new day’s ahead,

One more in the never-ending war.

Dog and soldier sit side by side

And watch the miracle that’s each sunrise.

And share a quiet moment too-

Like everything else, it is shared in two.

Friends, companions, brothers in arms;

The deployed soldier and his military dog.

love my dog, doglover, dogs of twitter

Early in the morning as the sun comes up

And heat and war engulfs the land,

A man and his dog walk side by side

And know that none of them is all alone.

The real world is far, a long ago dream.

Here, life has no price, but the price you’ve set.

And in this land where rules are upside down,

So far away from the world where they both saw the light,

The bond and the love that unites dog and man

Is stronger than a war, precious as life itself.

Silent Heroes of war

‘The Soldier and his Dog’ is a poem I wrote while researching for Silent Heroes. The history of military working dogs, MWDs, is fascinating and heartbreaking, as is the life of US soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and fighting the war there. It later led to Silent Heroes, When Love and Value Are Worth Fighting for.

War in Afghanistan, literary fiction
soldier dog silent heroes

What I Hope Readers Take from my Books

hope readers books Furstenberg

I write with the hope that readers, while looking for a captivating and interesting read, a way to unwind and pass the time, will also find a novel that addresses their mind and their humanity, a book that speaks to their heart.

I write for the joy of it, but also for bringing into the light less know contemporary and historical characters. I write in an attempt to connect past and present, the readers of my books with the lesser known, yet equally mystifying and significant, aspects of our history.

hope readers books Pat Furstenberg
What I hope readers will take from y books, by Patricia Furstenberg

We naturally seek the stories of those who lived before us, of those who went through incredible experiences, of those who loved and lost, who followed their dreams and paid dearly for it; people who have already been there, done that. It’s a natural human impulse. Go with it.

What I hope my readers will discover in my books

Realistic, relatable characters and that they will want to know what happens to them, rather than just following the plot.

Heartwarming relationships.

A setting that will transport them to another location, another lifestyle, another time, while still enjoying the safety of their reading space.

A complex story-line, involving historical events, accurately depicted and an addictive storytelling.

That tingling feeling that keeps you turning the pages.

An image, a feeling that will stay with them long after finished my book. Readers have appreciated in my writing the occasional passages they paused upon to enjoy especially for their lyrical descriptions.

A positive feeling, hope, a smile, as my writing has been described as uplifting and heart-warming, “making the world a beautiful place”- although my stories are honest.

An addictive reading, fueled by a passion for the topic and for storytelling.

Although reality can be uncomfortable in places, books can hold a mirror to real life. But life is also filled with joyful moments, with laughter and appreciation for our blessings. I hope readers will discover both in my books, as I write poetry, children’s stories, contemporary and historical fiction.

poetry books inspired by true historical events

Gifts all readers reap out of books

Reduced stress and depressive thoughts, while instilling a sense of tranquility.

An increased IQ, a wider vocabulary and an improved memory.

An increased EQ, making us more empathic.

Improved analytical thinking and a deeper knowledge of what we want.

Also, reading as a form of mental stimulation slows down dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

hope readers books Furstenberg
What I hope readers take from my books by Patricia Furstenberg

Maroons, Autumn’s Chocolates

Maroons Autumn's chocolates, chestnuts on forest floor

As Autumn fades into Winter, I find myself longing for roasted chestnuts. Prickly, like the history of their maroons shades, they are Autumn’s chocolates.

Maroons Autumn's chocolates. Coffee, Silent Heroes book, quill and ink pot.

I trust my inspiration to the rich, maroon liquid I came to associate with writing and quiet introversion at home. Its many shade and richness, in the auburn Autumn, are luscious bits of legal bliss.
Coffee.

Maroons Autumn's chocolates. Chocolate speckled eggs in a nest in forest.

Perhaps autumn found inspiration for its sepia, russet and chocolates between the patterns of birds’ eggs.

Maroons Autumn's chocolates. person holding fireworks in a forest.

Did you know that before naming a color, maroon, already associated with chestnuts bursting in the fire, dubbed a firework’s explosion?

Marooned by Howard Pyle, Public Domain. Maroons Autumn's chocolates
Marooned by Howard Pyle, Public Domain

I love how the word maroon escaped from a 17th century label for unruly people… to anyone marooned on an island in 18th century & beyond. It happened because authoritative would sent the wild specimens on an island they could not escape from, nor survive on!

Maroon has richness to it, depths, warmth. It is a promise never disappointing. Burgundy roses, chestnuts, chocolates paired with a glass of wine, coffee, tulips, an aubergines. Yet in art, maroon is perceived as a shade of red, a darker red – near burgundy, carmine, crimson, fire engine red, magenta, rust (like russet?) and scarlet, terra cotta, Venetian red, vermilion… A poem of colors.

One of my favorite spots of maroon in art is in The Wedding Feast at Cana by the Italian artist Paolo Veronese, a massive painting housed in the Salle des États of the Louvre Museum, facing The Mona Lisa. The Wedding Feast at Cana tells a beautiful biblical story of the Marriage at Cana, at which Jesus converts water to wine. And… there are dogs painted right in the center and one other dog with a gorgeous maroon head… on the left side:

I leave you now with a Maroon Haiku:

Of secret islands,
It transcended centuries
Boom! In my coffee.

maroons autumn’s chocolates maroons autumn’s chocolates

Military Working Dogs of Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan

Silent Heroes of war

Saving human lives during military conflicts takes first stage. Welcome to some amazing stories about Military Working Dogs involved in the Gulf, Iraq & Afghanistan War.

I watch my dogs basking in the sun, the tip of their tail swishing just as I think of them, standing against the door frame. Can they read my mind? I know they will shake off their dreams and follow me as I stroll around the yard.
Their heart chooses to follow mine.
That’s how dogs are.

118 Military Working Dog Teams were deployed to the Gulf region for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. In the War on Terrorism a big threat are explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or a roadside location. Therefore, Explosives Detection Dogs were, and still are, specially trained to alert when they sense the specific chemicals used in explosives, either packed, hidden or even as powder remains on the humans that handled them or on their clothes . Explosive Dogs are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other US locations for this purpose alone.

Military Working  Dogs Gulf Iraq Afghanistan

2000, Robby’s Law, one reason to cheer for former President Clinton

Before President Clinton passed “Robby’s Law” in 2000, military working dogs were considered “military surplus equipment” and deemed unfit to adjust to civilian life. This meant that once the military could no longer use, need or afford a canine, the once treasure four-legged was either released or euthanized instead of honored. After “Robby’s Law” was passed, handlers (who had already formed a strong bond with their canine mate) and their families were first to be offered the opportunity at adopting these military animals at the completion of their service.

Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

Some soldiers even used their military operational bonus to buy the dog that served with them.

MWD watching and soldier sleeping, Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
MWD watching and soldier sleeping – Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

“Fluffy was my Comrade in arms first, then he walked into my heart as my friend and became my buddy then he became part of my family.
He was not a pet! He was a soldier first. During our time in Iraq he checked on me and I checked on him. He was one of the team, he was my battle buddy! If I sat down he would sit no farther than five feet away. If I got up and moved ten feet he would get up and move ten feet. “

Russel, on K920Fluffy (Iraq War vet) – USAWarDogs.org
Photo of U.S. Army veteran Joe Steenbeke with military dog Tess in Afghanistan Credit Reunite Joe and Tess, Facebook
Photo of U.S. Army veteran Joe Steenbeke with military dog Tess in Afghanistan Credit Reunite Joe and Tess, Facebook

For the dog training program, Iraq came too late after Vietnam

The first 30 dog teams sent into Iraq in 2004 were the “guinea pigs”, all tactical lessons and experience gained during the Vietnam war lost. What made it worthwhile for the dog teams were the canines, with their honest, open and loving personalities.

Iraq  Afghanistan - buddies, militry dog and soldier, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

The Paradogs: the parachuting dogs of war

By 2008 German Shepherd dogs already jumped from aircrafts at 25,000ft, strapped to a member of the special forces assault teams. Later, Belgian Malinois dogs, lighter and stubbier, were considered better for the tandem parachute jumping and rappelling operations often undertaken by SEAL teams. The tandem jumping was done to protect the canines on landing.

Ready for tandem jumping. Source Foreign Policy
Ready for tandem jumping. Source Foreign Policy

A military dog would only be allowed to jump solo form a helicopter if he lands in water and only if properly outfitted with a flotation vest. Such dogs were trained to accompany soldiers on ‘High Altitude High Opening’ (HAHO) parachute jumps. After landing, men and MWDs would still have to travel 20 miles to their targets.

Military dogs trained to accompany soldiers on 'High Altitude High Opening' (HAHO) parachute jumps. Source Foreign Policy
Military dogs trained to accompany soldiers on ‘High Altitude High Opening’ (HAHO) parachute jumps. Source Foreign Policy

These MWDs had small cameras fixed to their heads and, trained to penetrate the enemy lines before their human partners, would hunt for Taliban or insurgent hideouts. The cameras will sent live images back to the troops while the dogs warn of possible ambushes.

MWD dogs equipped with Canine Tactical Assault Vests
MWD dogs equipped with Canine Tactical Assault Vests

The elite American unit, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, commonly known as Delta Force, has pioneered the parachute technique from heights over 20,000ft.

U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico:

U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez, U.S. Air Force.
Training over the Gulf of Mexico. MWDs show no fear. A military dog would only be allowed to jump solo form a helicopter if he lands in water

2009: U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and a MWD wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009:

U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009
Soldiers and Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

Navy Seal teams are trained to parachute from great heights and deploy out of helicopters with dogs. In 2010 the Seals bought four waterproof tactical vests for their dogs that featured infrared and night-vision cameras and an ‘intruder communication system’ able to penetrate concrete walls. The MWD’s handlers — using a three-inch monitor from as far as 1,000 yards away — could immediately see what the dogs were seeing. The vests, which come in coyote tan and camouflage, let handlers communicate with the dogs through a speaker and were strong enough to protect the dogs from harm due to everything, from bullets to ice picks. The four vests together cost over $86,000 at the time, says a 2011 NY Times article.

MWD K9 gear - best body Armor available for military dogs. Source K9 Storm
MWD K9 gear – the best body Armor for military dogs. Source K9 Storm

The world record for highest man-dog parachute jump

In 2011 U.S. Military Handler Mike Forsythe, a former US Navy SEAL turned canine parachute instructor for military and search & rescue units and his dog Cara, strapped on a K9 Storm Vest tactical body armor and fitted an oxygen mask, jumped in tandem from over 30,100 feet, the altitude at which transoceanic passenger jets fly. Cara is a Belgian Malinois.

Highest man-dog parachute jump. Mike Forsythe and Cara. Photo source: K9 Storm Inc Handout Reuters
Highest man-dog parachute jump. Mike Forsythe and Cara. Photo source: K9 Storm Inc Handout Reuters

In October 2010 the Pentagon announced that after six years and $19 billion spent in the attempt to build the ultimate bomb detector technology, dogs were still the most accurate sniffers around. The rate of detection with the Pentagon’s fanciest equipment — drones and aerial detectors — was a 50 percent success rate, but when a dog was involved it rose an extra 30 percent.

War dog canine military service SEAL team repelling from a helicopter
War dog canine military service SEAL team repelling from a helicopter. Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number that reached approximately 650 at the end of 2011 and 2,800 active-duty dogs in 2013, making it the largest canine contingent in the world.

The MWD who took Osama bin Laden down

Not many know, but the 81 members of the American commando team who blitzed into Abbottabad, Pakistan, to capture and kill Osama bin Laden had a MWD with them. Some say he was the U.S.’s most courageous dog, yet little was known about him until recently. his name is Cairo and he is a Belgian Malinois.

MWD Cairo, the war dog who helped take Osama bin Laden down, the 81st member of SEAL team who blitzed into Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011
MWD Cairo, the war dog who helped take Osama bin Laden down, the 81st member of SEAL team who blitzed into Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011

MWDs in the War in Afghanistan

NATO soldier carries sniffing dog after gun battle in Kabul on April 16 2012. Source: Boston archive
A NATO soldier carries sniffing dog after gun battle in Kabul on April 16 2012. A brazen 18hrs Taliban attack on the capital ended when insurgents overcome heavy gunfire from Afghan led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from coalition helicopter. Source: Boston Archive

How MWDs contribute to the local Afghan economy

Maintaining a Military Base, building roads and maintaining them requires constant effort. Often local contractors are used, in an attempt to support the local (Afghan) economy. But to keep the soldiers safe, each local truck or worker has to be checked for possible hidden explosives (they are aware of or not). Here is where Vehicle Search dogs play an important role.

There is always peace between a MWD, a Marine and local Afghan children caught in the war.
There is always peace between a MWD, a Marine and local Afghan children caught in the war.

Surviving the harsh climate in Afghanistan

If you wondered how the MWDs survive the harsh climate of Afghanistan, know that (some) of their kennels are equipped with air conditioning and, often, if an army base has a swimming pool – that definitely is not for the benefit of the humans.

LCpl Natasha Mooney on patrol with Panchio in Helmand Province - Source British Army blog
LCpl Natasha Mooney on patrol with Panchio in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

Dog Breeds preferred as MWDs by U.S. Military

U.S. military prefers mostly German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois, breeds because they are aggressive, smart, loyal and athletic.

Training together: Staff Sgt. Erick Martinez, a military dog handler uses an over-the-shoulder carry to hold his dog, Argo II, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The exercise helps build trust, loyalty, and teamwork. Source Foriegn Policy.
Staff Sgt. Erick Martinez, a military dog handler, uses an over-the-shoulder carry with Argo II during an exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The exercise helps build trust, loyalty and teamwork for Sergeant Martinez and Argo II, who have been working together for only two months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Allen Stokes)

German Shepherd dogs are the standard breed because they are considered to be intelligent, dependable, predictable, easily trained, usually moderately aggressive, and can adapt quickly to almost any climatic conditions.

Buddies training together. Having each-other's  back. Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Buddies training together. Having each-other’s back.

Single-purpose dogs are used for one purpose only: sniffing out explosives or narcotics. Retrievers (Labrador, Golden or Chesapeake Bay) are preferred, also Viszlas, various short-and wire-haired pointers, Jack Russell terriers and even small poodles. These are all nose, no bite dogs. These dogs are trained to locate either drugs or explosives – never both. “When your dog makes an alert you need to know whether to run away and call the explosives people or whether to go arrest someone.”

Praying together. A military dog and his human handler, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Praying together

It is empowering, yet worrisome to find out that military working dogs today train for such a diverse range of tasks: EDD (Explosive Detector Dog), NDD (Narcotics Detector Dog), SSD (Specialized Search Dog) – trained to work off leash, at long distances from their handler, in order to find explosives. SDD dogs work by hand signals, and can even receive commands via radio receivers they wear on their backs, attached to their bulletproof doggy vest, and TEDD (Tactical Explosive Detector Dog).

A dog can have up to 225 million olfactory receptors in his nose and the part of their brain devoted to scent is 40 times greater than that of a human.

“A dog can see through his nose.”

Mike Dowling, former Marine Corps dog handler, Iraq
MWD and his handler keeping watch together, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Keeping watch together

More single purpose dogs, like the dogs I depicted in my latest novel Silent Heroes: CTD (Combat Tracker Dog) trained to detect where IEDs and weapons caches are located; MDD (Mine Detection Dog): these dogs do slow off-leash searches for buried mines and artillery; IDD (IED Detector Dog), this is a temporary program created to fulfill the urgent need for bomb dogs, especially in Afghanistan.

Never Give Up - A MWD hurt by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Never Give Up – A MWD hurt by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device)

Of course, there are dual-purpose dogs, multi-purpose canines, the special K-9 Corps of CIA.

What are vapor-wake dogs?

Scientists at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have genetically bred and specially trained canines that are able do more than just detect stationary bombs or bomb-making materials. These MWDs can identify and alert their handler to the moving scent of explosive devices and materials left behind in the air.
If a suicide bomber walks through a crowd, these dogs would be able to tell him apart without ever tipping off the perpetrator.
The cost of breeding and training vapor-wake dogs is around $20,000 each, still less than the cost of training most MWDs.

U.S. sergeant Matthew Templet and his bomb-sniffing dog Basco search for the explosives in an abandoned house in Haji, Ghaffar village, during a clearance patrol in Zari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 2010.Source Foreign Policy
U.S. sergeant Matthew Templet and his bomb-sniffing dog Basco search for the explosives in an abandoned house in Haji, Ghaffar village, during a clearance patrol in Zari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 2010. Source Foreign Policy

The Difference between a German Shepherd and a Belgian Malinois dog

But training is much more than teaching a dog commands. It is bonding, above anything else.

Dereck Stevens bonds with his military working dog before a practice drill at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Credit Bryce Harper for The New York Times.jpg
Dereck Stevens bonds with his military working dog before a practice drill at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Credit Bryce Harper for The New York Times

There is no count to the number of hidden bombs detected and the human lives saved by the MWDs today, yet it is certain that the use of these dogs marked a pivotal moment for the coalition forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when it comes to the moral of the troops and the freedom of movement for the ground patrols operating in combat areas.

U.S. Marines attached to 1st Battalion, 6th regiment, Charlie Company relax with their bomb-sniffing dogs Books and Good one in Huskers camp on the outskirts of Marjah in central Helmand, Afgganistan, on Jan. 25, 2010. Source Foreign Policy
U.S. Marines attached to 1st Battalion, 6th regiment, Charlie Company relax with their bomb-sniffing dogs Books and Good one in Huskers camp on the outskirts of Marjah in central Helmand, Afgganistan, on Jan. 25, 2010. Source Foreign Policy

The bond formed between military dogs and their human handlers is stronger than an outsider can imagine, helping the soldiers cope with a ghastly war.

Always by your side.
The bond between the human handler and the military dog goes very deep. Always by your side.

In crucial moments, when humans naturally tend to doubt themselves, a dog will sense the tension and still trust his handler, and this tips the situation in the favor of the human-dog team.

A dog sits at the grave of his owner, who died in conflict. Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
A dog sits at the grave of his owner, who died in conflict.

All dogs trained and used by the U.S. military are procured and trained by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron, Lackland AFB, TX.

Marine war dogs memorial, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Marine war dogs memorial
2012 army photo competition.Amateur Portrait category runner-up Cpl Dawson and his dog Lightning rest up in TCP West.Picture Captain Richard Willing MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images
Army Photographic Competition 2012…(STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL OCTOBER 10, 2012 00:01HRS BST) In this handout image supplied by the Ministry of Defence Crown Copyright, photo entitled ‘LIGHTNING AND HIS HANDLER’, depicting Cpl Dawson and his dog Lightning rest up in TCP West. (Army Amateur Portrait category runner up; Photo by Captain Richard Willing/MoD/Mandatory Credit Crown Copyright via Getty Images)

When a military dog dies…

The dog that dies in combat is honored by the squad during a tribute ceremony. A poem, titled “Guardians of the Night” by an anonymous author, is read.

Trust in me my friend for I am your comrade.

I will protect you with my last breath. When all others have left you

And the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side …

When our time together is done and you move on in the world,

Remember me with kind thoughts and tales.

For a time we were unbeatable,

Nothing passed among us undetected.”

“Guardians of the Night” by Anonymous

Doggles – goggles for dogs!

MWD with doggles, goggles for dogs, in an army helicopter, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Doggles – it is all about protection

Dogs, the Silent Heroes of any war

Some might argue that the use of animals, and lately dogs, in war borders an ethical dilemma. Yet during conflicts, saving human lives (be it military or civilians, always dragged in combat) always takes first stage and it is certain that hundreds, if not thousands of men, women and children owe their life, in one way or another, to the military working dogs, MWDs, who served beside them.

Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

My latest novel, Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, was written with respect for the military life and the local traditions and beliefs of all of those caught in the War in Afghanistan.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – New Contemporary Fiction by Patricia Furstenberg

Silent War Heroes page on my website contains part of the extensive knowledge I absorbed while researching for Silent Heroes as well as links to all my articles about the history of human-canine relationship and that of the military dogs. I hope you will stop by.