As an author, I am the resultant force of the books I read. As a woman, I am the resultant force of the women who influenced my life – my mother, my grandmothers, my daughter, my girl friends, my female role models. As a human being, I am one of the forces shaping my children’s future; albeit a tiny one, I can point forward and upwards. Scientia potetia est.
It was an honor to have my article on Why We Need Contemporary War Fiction Written by Women published on Books By Women:
At some stage during my adult life, and this will astound my history teacher if she’d discover, I found myself fascinated by the thought of writing fiction inspired by contemporary events.
A thread that brought me here might have been reading Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” in my teens; another one, witnessing the terrorist attack on World Trade Center on Live TV while pregnant with my daughter. A definite thread, silky and alluring, came from enjoying historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon. While the most recent one, still carding itself, draws from my son’s keen interest in war computer games and my own, in military working dogs.
Contemporary war fiction penned by
women pales in comparison to the amount of books written by men. Be it
in poetry or prose, throughout the centuries an author, not an
authoress, depicted more often the combat male protagonist. As Homer put
it in his Iliad, “war will be men’s business”.
Why so, since countless notable women
were not afraid of fighting battles? The Greek goddess Athena is shown
as a warrior, the patron of justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, and
arts. The Celtic goddess Brigid is the patron of poetry and smithcraft.
Scathach is an Irish Goddess who taught the martial arts. The Amazons
were fierce warrior women and there were even gladiator women,
gladiatrices, although Juvenal, the Roman poet of those times, depicted
them as a mere novelty. History is splattered with the blood of
innumerable women warriors: Hatshepsut, Queen Boudicca, Queen Samsi of
Arabia, the Trung Sisters from Vietnam, Empress Theodora of Byzantium,
Olga of Russia, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary I and Elizabeth I of
History also showed us that women who
took to war were willingly followed by an army of men and women and
that they won their battles much to their opponent’s dismay. Is it the
fact that women can stand up for themselves in times of political
upheaval what worries men or the fact that women could, eventually,
With such role models, although nowadays women have changed spear for pen, where has history brought us?
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.
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
Some soldiers even used their military operational bonus to buy the dog that served with them.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
The world record for highest man-dog parachutejump
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.
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.
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.
MWDs in the War in Afghanistan
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 orexplosives – 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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Doggles – goggles for dogs!
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.
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.
After a military history that seemed to have snowballed between the Great War and the Second World War, what happened to these specially trained canine soldiers once dust settled over the Paris Peace Treaties?
Military Dogs during the Korean War
As there were still U.S. Army troops that remained in Korea after the end of WW2, due to the Cold War, they stayed put in the south after the Communist government was established in North Korea. Therefore more than one hundred U.S. military dogs were already stationed in Seoul at the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950.
The sentry dogs were quickly trained for combat situations. The the 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon was the U.S. dog sent unit to fight in Korea. Back home, the dogs were trained at the Army Dog Training Center at Fort Carson
“The 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon is cited for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in direct support of combat operations in Korea during the period 12 June 1951 to 15 January 1953.
Korean War, General Orders Citation
Thoughts on deactivating the Army Dog Training Center at Fort Carson, in 1957:
“While fighting in Korea I was attacked and one of these dogs took over my attacker and I was able to recover my footing and escaped. Please reconsider.”
Frank Conanno, 1470 Third Street, West Babylon, N. Y.
“I am in the Army and was put into the scout dog platoon and trained dogs for nine months in the States and have had the same dog all the times. This dog STAR has saved my life and about twelve other men’s lives. I would like to know if there is any way that I could have him discharged the same time that I am. I would gladly pay the Government for the dog and take all the responsibility for him. “I would appreciate it very much if you could help me in any way so I could take him home with me. This dog is not dangerous and would be suitable to civilian life.”
Cpl, Max Meyers, 26th Infantry, Scout Dog Platoon, APO #60 San Francisco, Calif.
At the end of he Korean War, some scout dogs were put on sentry duty at various Dog Platoons in the U.S.
Laika, first dog in space, 1957
Laika was he first dog in space, November 1957, on board of Sputnik 2, the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit by the Soviet Union. Sadly, Laika survived for several orbits but died a few hours after the launch. Laika was part husky or other Nordic breed, part terrier, once again proving that a brave heart is worth more than a pedigree.
The American press dubbed Laika Muttnik: mutt + suffix -nik
Military dogs during the Vietnam War
Below: two sniffer dogs that served in the Vietnam War, 1967, South Vietnam, with the 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Justin is left, and Cassius is right, pictured here with Lance Corporal Thomas Douglas and Cpl. Norman Leslie. Cpl Blackhurst, a radio operator, was killed in action in April 1971 while calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. The helicopter crashed, killing L Cpl. Blackhurst, another officer on the ground, as well as the medic on board.
In Vietnam there was a specialized requirement for tunnel dogs to detect and explore the tunnels exploited by the Vietnam Cong (National Liberation Front). The tunnel dwellers feared the U.S. dogs and used tactics to confuse them. For example they washed with GI soap and covered air vents with shirts taken from Americans so the dogs’ sense of smell would not be alerted.
Sadly, the war dogs deployed to Vietnam during that conflict, 1955 – 1975, were classified as “surplus equipment” and left behind, no matter what their human handler and buddies believed. When U.S. troops withdrew in 1973, most of the 4,000 U.S. military dogs on the ground there were deemed “surplus equipment,” and left behind. Some were given to South Vietnamese forces, while others were euthanized.
The Prison Riot of 1996 and the first dog body armor
The Winnipeg prison riot of 1996 might not have made the international news, but the two days of horror have been enough for Jim Slater, a former dog handler for the Winnipeg police department, who adjusted a human flak jacket on his canine partner Olaf.
“He was out working ahead of our lines,” he says. “I realized it would be a bad way for him to go down, stabbed with a screwdriver.”
Jim Slater for Money.com
Orders for more bullet proof jackets for dogs soon began to pour from fellow canine officers.
Military Working Dogs in the Israeli Special Forces
Founded in 1939 as Hagana ( when canines were used for the security of Jewish villages threatened by their Arab neighbors), the Oketz Unit (Oketz is Hebrew for “sting”) is the independent canine special forces (sayeret) unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Initially, Oketz trained dogs to attack kidnappers, but today their dogs undergo specialized training: attack, tracking, sniffer dogs (especially ammunition and hidden explosives) and finding people in collapsed buildings.
The Oketz military base has a pet cemetery, the final resting place of over 60 four-legged recruits. A testimony to the increasingly significant role that dogs have come to play in the ranks of the military and of the never ending bond that forms between them and their human handlers.
Fighting terrorists or taking part in the Gaza-Israel conflict, when a Israeli military dog happens to be torn apart by a land mine he is officially registered as missing in combat.“Our troops train as one – man and dog... It’s less about you and more about you and the dog together, what you can do together.”
“Since 2002, soldiers and dogs from Oketz have been able to prevent at least 200 suicide attacks in the central region”
Israeli officer says.
Unlike other combat troops in the IDF, Oketz soldiers carry three liters of water on them during operations – 1.5 liters for themselves and 1.5 liters for the dogs. (Source: The Jerusalem Post)
In 2017, India announced that it had bought 30 Oketz attack dogs, bomb sniffers and chasers from Israel because “the new four-legged recruits to the Special Protection Group are considered the best in the world in sniffing out explosive booby-traps.”
The Jerusalem Post
“On numerous occasions and on numerous deployments I have seen battle-hardened men pouring affection on stray dogs that happen to frequent their bases, and often try to adopt them. I remember in Bosnia, in the deep snow of Mrkonič Grad where we were holed-up in an old, windy bus depot, there was a huge mongrel, clearly the alpha male, that used to lay in the snow permanently surveying his empire, confident that as each unit passed through on its 6-month rotation, someone would make sure that he was well looked after.”
Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman, British Army Blog
1989, the Berlin Wall comes down
Before 9 November 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, the East German Communist Government used over 6000 dogs for patrol along the wall, known as “Wall Dogs”. A special breed was raised for this reason alone, DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) Shepherd: dogs that excelled in tracking, were athletic, tough, had excellent climbing abilities, and could withstand extreme physical conditions and demands.
These dogs were tied to a 5m long chain attached to a steel cable that ran approximately 100m in length along the Berlin Wall. Their life was tough, were treated with extreme cruelty. Barely fed every two days, they went through a (short) life with barely any human contact. They soon developed the “wall syndrome”: barking incessantly even when they could hardly stand. Some were killed when they could no longer perform their guard duty, some strangled themselves when their own leads got tangled.
After the Wall came down and these guard dogs were no longer needed, they were mostly abandoned. The German Association for the Protection of Animals did everything they could to save as many Wall dogs as possible. Some say that the adopted Wall dogs, when approaching the area where the wall once stood, would
“move as if tethered to an unseen leash, with absolute certainty, following the old border along its zigzags through the city”.
Is one happy ending enough?
Between the Wall Dogs, whose difficult reputation made it difficult for them to be adopted, two German Shepherds, Juro and Betty, and a Schnauzer called Valco, were adopted in March 1990 by a family in Mallorca, Spain.
The history of Military Working Dogs, or War Dogs, is long and sad. Have humankind learned anything from these amazing souls, who give unconditionally, forget and always offer second chances?
Next post: MWDs encountered in the Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Do return for some amazing images and more canine history.
‘Although this is a work of fiction there are truths to it that will tug at your heart. For anyone who has not read one of Patricia’s books then I would recommend this one. ‘ Mandie Griffiths, Book Reviewer
‘Wisdom is threaded throughout Silent Heroes. This novel is an intense, evocative and heart-wrenching narrative of destruction and hope. There is a philosophical exploration of the fragility of human life and the consequences of power struggles.’ Amazon Reader
‘I recommend that if you are unfamiliar with why and how the young men and women of our armies are involved in this conflict, that you read Silent Heroes.’ Sally Cronin, Author, Goodreads Review
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For, is the new novel by Patricia Furstenberg, the author of Amazon Bestseller Joyful Trouble.
How far would you go to save strangers in need? Military Dogs risk their life for their humans in a heartbeat, but can soldiers do the same when personal struggles and global affairs defy humanity? When Taliban raids an Afghan village and discovers that girls can read, a woman accepts the blame to save the community. Her teenage daughter witnesses the sacrifice swearing revenge, her own life and that of her brother becoming intertwined with those of the Marines serving at a nearby military base. Led by Captain Marcos who conceals, under a cool appearance, his lifelong disability to read human emotions, the solid team of soldiers is faced with the trauma of losing platoon-mates, both human and canine, with PTSD and with becoming estranged from families left behind. When the Marines are instructed to accept a mysterious young Afghan as their guide the humanity of local population they come in contact with raises questions about the necessity of war. It is a race against time, fending off the Taliban lurking at the ancient Qala-e-Bost fortress and defending Bost Airport, a vital strategic point for the allies, while saving the kidnapped civilians at the same time.
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For
“They’re coming!” are the words synonym with death.
The war cry sweeps along the eastern snowy slope of
Hindu Kush Mountains in an avalanche of hoofs. It conquers the empty streets of
our village amplified by dark, bearded men waving Kalashnikovs above their
heads, thirsty for blood.
Those who have heard it before know it brings
terror and death. Those who have met them before remember the reek of slaughter
that seeps through their long robes, the wild beards that swell from underneath
their flat hats, pakols, revealing gap-toothed jaws. Even those too young to
comprehend, the tots born after the last grown men of our village left for war,
shrink from their sight.
The Taliban soldiers breeding in our mountains.
Their sulphur stench yanks us, women and children,
from behind the fake safety of mud walls. It is execution time again.
A young woman stood in the door frame of a modest
hut, holding herself tall in an attempt to shield her young brother who,
transfixed, watched as a cloud of menacing smoke tumbled along the mountain
slope, thundering and calling “Allāhu akbar”, “Allah is great.” The same praise
women sang, with tear-stained eyes, whenever a healthy new-born arrived into
Her mother still called her ‘girl’, although she
already passed the threshold to womanhood. But a girl would still fit in her
mother’s arms where she would be protected. A girl would not be expected to
obey and cover herself with a burqa and a girl would not be forced to cease her
learning because she is over a certain age.
A second woman, with eagle eyes and a guarded
attitude, materialized behind. Adjusting her hijab over her head she kept to
the shadows, yanking the young one inside. Only her hooded, dark brown eyes
spoke. There was distress in them and a prophecy, words no one was allowed to
Between their skirts, a skinny boy of eight moved
along. The girl, Emma Dil, meaning ‘Dil ki khawahish’, ‘Heart’s Wish’, was thus
named to illustrate her father’s pride in having a girl as their firstborn,
instead of a boy. His heart’s wish. The same honour had glinted in their
mother’s eyes the night their father decided to join the fight against the
Afghan insurgents in the never-ending war versus Taliban; even knowing it might
cost them his life.
“Come, my heart, inside. It has to be done. We must
hurry, hurry,” the second woman said, her voice in check, yet Emma Dil’s strung
nerves picked the rise in pitch, its agony and anguish. The mother pulled Emma
indoors bolting the door, sealing out most of the light. A gleam of steel in
the mother’s right hand caught the last of the sunshine. Hugging her daughter
one last time the mother pulled the little boy between them, her free hand soft
and warm on Emma’s wet cheek. The girl filled her lungs with the familiar scent
of faded rose petals she had associated with love and safety all her life,
knowing it was the last time she will. The three of them lingered in their
embrace, the girl holding her breath, willing time to stop. Yet three
heartbeats later the mother pulled away.
“Rafik, my clever boy, my pride, take your flying
legs and run like the wind to the neighbouring village. Warn them,” her eyes
urged him, “they’ve come again.” Her work-worn hand lingered on his face,
cupping his childish cheek one more time. His eyes gleamed, his body all wired
up, ready to please, yet his mother’s hand stayed on his face, drawing him
closer for one more kiss. The woman pulled him near her chest while urging him
to go at the same time, “run, child, run!”
When he was out through the back door the woman
turned dead eyes towards the girl, scissors at the ready. “Swear, my girl. No
one must ever find out.”
As a culmination of each one of their raids, the
Taliban troops would round us all in the dusty centre of the village, my
brother and I always trying to obstruct our mother’s presence. But today it is
only me so I try to square my shoulders.
My aunt and her three daughters nestled themselves
against us, eyes cast down, the young ones shaking like leaves, counting their
heartbeats, “One – alive. Two – alive. Three – alive;” the small one wetting
I never understood why we were held at gunpoint by
men speaking the same language, only crazed for power, thirsty to kill in the
name of Islam. Throwing menacing looks, their black eyes, heavily creased,
glaring from behind filthy headdresses that would come up to cover their faces
as soon as they entered the village.
Mother said such questions were not to be uttered,
maybe, just maybe, raised in the back of my mind when I was alone in our
Then their leader would arrive, dressed in black
pants and a black, long shirt, the traditional shalwar kameez. Wickedness
“Allah is great!” they’d all yell. “May Allah give
Davron a long life,” they’d welcome him. It is a call for joy. It is also a
call to sentence us, innocent or not.
This time they found enough proof to kill another
one of us, all in the name of Islam. A law had been broken by a child. Or a
woman. Their bloodlust and fanaticism in reinforcing their dominance over us
know no limits. To them, the Islam law stands above human life.
In the middle of dirt, in front of us all, lands a
tattered book. A small cloud of dust rises as the book touches the ground. Its
pages open by themselves to the part most enjoyed, a line drawing of a world
map. In its middle someone had penned, in blue ink, a little star. It marks
Afghanistan’s place on the map. The small star on a two-page chart shows how
big it is, the world we are all a part of. So promising, this big world. A
world I often dreamed of. A world that knows nothing of us.
The man dressed in black, the one they call
Commander Davron, has a scar along his left cheek.
Once I asked mom if she thinks he was chosen as
their leader because he is the ugliest man on earth. She watched me, amazed,
then laughed so hard as I’ve never seen her laugh before. When she was done she
wiped her eyes, hugged me, and asked me to never say those words again. But
that she thinks I was right and that I had a brilliant intellect, and I must
never forget that.
Their leader kicks the book with the tip of his
stained shoe then tramps past us all, hands behind his back, his eyes boring
into our souls even as we look down at our feet. His stench turns my stomach.
From the corner of my eye, I watch the book flying
like a wounded bird, landing a few feet away, face down. A page is bent and my
book-lover self winces.
He strides back, his black robe swaying with every
step like a death flag, his beard nodding disapprovingly like it’s got a mind
of its own. Halting near us he toots his lips and turns his head sideways,
listening, making a show out of it.
A trickle of water echoes nearby. To the right, my
little niece has wet herself again. Commander Davron’s mouth twists in a smile,
yet his eyes frown. He bends forward, his beard almost touching her cheek, hot
and wet, lined with dust. Her small hands are pressed against her mouth in a
desperate attempt to keep any noise inside. I freeze. There is an ink stain on
her index finger. The bearded leader pretends not to notice, but as he turns
towards the rest of us his hand, as sharp as an eagle’s beak, fastens on the
girl’s fragile wrist pulling it forward. She collapses near the book, her knees
scraping the dust, her shoulder nearly dislocated. She lets out a sharp scream.
He still holds her wrist.
“Proof! Again!” he bellows. “Islam’s sacred law had
been broken! AGAIN! Girls, that read AND write?”
Should his shouts be visible, they would be a whip
reaching each one of us, extracting any hope out of our hearts.
I grab my mother’s hand, willing her to stand
behind. But it is too late. She would never witness one of the girls tortured.
I feel my heart ripped from my chest as mother throws herself in the sand at
the feet of Commander Davron, her arm protecting the little girl.
“Please,” she sobs through her burqa, “let her go.
In the name of Allah, it is my fault, only mine.”
His tongue slithers over his bottom lip, like a
snake pushing out of his hideout, and he lets go of the girl’s wrist turning,
with greedy eyes, towards my mother.
“Take off your burqa,” he orders her.
All the women gasp. The law of Islam orders women
to stay covered in front of any men outside their immediate family.
“I want to know who broke Islam’s holy law.”
If she shows her face, she will break a law; a
different law, by Taliban’s standards.
My ears ring and tears burn my eyes, yet I dug my
nails into my wrists, behind my back. I promised mother not to tell.
Not to tell a soul.
My knees shake underneath my father’s dark robe and
a trickle of sweat rolls down my neck, escaping my short hair and my manly
headdress, also my father’s. The tiny hairs stuck to my neck after mom’s hasty
haircut itch, but not as much as my tongue. I want to yell the truth, but I
The dark Commander turns towards me.
“You have a boy, I see. Almost a man. He doesn’t
need his mother anymore. Take off your burqa.”
A guttural wail escapes my mother as she removes
her headdress and face covers in front of Commander Davron and his army.
She had just sentenced herself.
They cheer in the name of Allah, crazed at the
thought of another kill.
“This woman broke two of His sacred laws!” he
bellows. “No girl over the age of eight is to learn to read or write, yet this
woman taught reading and writing. And she has removed her face cover in the
absence of her husband and in front of strange men! If you want lessons to
learn, I’ll teach you lessons!”
His army cheers and they empty their guns towards
By the time he is done speaking our brave mother
lays dead in the dirt, a bullet through her brain. Her open eyes are fixed on
the book, yet she can’t see it anymore. All because she was willing to pay the
ultimate sacrifice to save us. Her face is as beautiful as ever and I want to
kneel and cradle her, but I cannot, I am a boy now and I promised not to tell.
Perched on a nearby eave, a purple sunbird watches us and my heart warms to her. Its lapis lazuli plumage is my mother’s favourite colour. I remember mother telling us an old Egyptian belief. When a person dies, a bird is sent from Heavens to escort its spirit home.
The Red Army began WW2 with 50 000 dogs already trained. Most dogs were white Samoyeds trained to find and help wounded soldiers lost in the snow.
But the soviets were unscrupulous; they also trained their dogs to fight tanks, sniff mines and as spies (diversion service).
Russian military trained half-starved dogs to run underneath tanks and armored vehicles in search for food, while explosives were strapped to their bodies. The detonator was a rod which extended upwards from the explosive pouch the dogs wore. When they ducked under tanks the rod would hit the hull of the vehicle, detonating bomb and dog.
Luckily, the anti-tank dogs had mixed success as the dogs, trained to run under stationery, non-firing tanks, often retreated at the sound of enemy gunfire, returning to the Soviet trenches, exploding and taking their comrades with them.
German War Dogs during WW2
It is worth noticing the German’s cunning
strategy. As the WWI Versailles Treaty limited Germany’s army to 100,000
members, German dog training school began operating under the disguised
training of German civil and railroad policemen to not arouse the Western Powers.
But Germany had a secret pact with Russia. They would train Russian officers in the art of warfare in exchange for a military facility, in Russia.
In conclusion, Germany began WW2 with 200 000 trained dogs and ten years K-9 experience. A vast majority of these dogs, forming the German Civil Police K-9 Unit, were sadly used to assist in the capturing and deportation of Jewish citizens to Nazi concentration and work camps.
Germany trained white dogs to point at the enemy. The Allies reported quite a few sightings of white dogs in North Africa. It was later concluded that the Germans trained some of their dogs to sniff the enemy (the Allies) and just point at them, standing perfectly still, and then returning to the German snipers.
Sadly, in the rushed withdrawal of Axis forces from North Africa so many dogs from the K-9 units were left behind that there was hardly any breeding stock left in the entire Germany.
Japanese War Dogs during WW2
Out of their 200 000 dogs secretly trained for ten years, the Germans gifted 25 000 to the Japanese to be used as patrols, scouts, and guards. But the Japanese trained their own suicide commandos dogs.
The Japanese dogs were trained to pull small carts until close enough to the enemy, the Americans. Each cart was loaded with fifty pound bombs that were then exploded.
The Japanese also trained their own pointer dogs. Small sized dogs were trained to find the American troops and then run back to the Japanese. On timing the dogs and noticing the direction of their trajectory, the Japanese would approximate the location of the American troops. This tactic did not work for long as the Americans soon begun to follow the small dogs back to the Japanese.
Cheering for the dogs!
Next we will look at what happened to these amazing war dogs once WW2 was over and then at the fate of military dogs past WW2 to present times.
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Two of my books focus on dogs and their adventures during the war.