A War Dog Helped Catch Osama Bin Laden

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War dogs: They are dogs that help fight war. The U.S. has some 2,700 of them deployed on active duty, and they are a key part of U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them -- who, at this point, "remains an enigma" -- was involved in the raid on Osama bin Laden. We imagine that if we were being lowered out of a helicopter to go catch and kill Osama bin Laden, it would probably rather reassuring to have a trained fighting best friend along with us -- not least because these dogs are pretty bad-ass. Foreign Policy has a great photo essay on them. After the jump, some fascinating facts about "Military Working Dogs," or "WMDs."

  • "Dogs usually jump in tandem with their trainers, but when properly outfitted with flotation vests they can make short jumps into water on their own."
  • "A dog can have up to 225 million olfactory receptors in their nose."
  • In terms of bomb detection, the Pentagon's best technology had a 50 percent success rate; when dogs helped, "it rose 30 percent."
  • Training a dog takes 120 days.
  • There's a U.S. War Dogs Association.
  • Gear for war dogs includes "Doggles (protective eye wear), body armor, life vests, gas masks, long-range GPS-equipped vests, and high-tech canine 'flak jackets.'"
  • War dogs are usually Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, and Labradors.
  • "The average German Shepherd's bite exerts between 400 and 700 pounds of pressure," according to the U.S. Air Force.
  • War dogs are incredibly loyal:
When Private First Class Carlton Rusk was shot after his unit came under Taliban sniper fire during a routine patrol in Afghanistan, Rusk's bomb-sniffing dog, Eli, crawled on top of his body, attacking anyone -- including Rusk's fellow Marines -- who tried to come near him. Rusk did not survive the assault, but Eli was granted early retirement so he could live with Rusk's family.
  • Retired military dogs can be adopted. There's information here.
  • Want to know more? Gerry Proctor, an officer at Lackland Air Force Base where the dog was trained, answered questions about war dogs in a live Q&A on WashingtonPost.com.

    War Dog [FP]; Belgian Malinois, German Shepherd breeds under spotlight as possible war hero dogs [WP]; The heroic war dog who helped nail bin Laden [The Week]


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