DOGS IN THE MILITARY
When a pet parent adopts a dog, it is unsaid that a baby enters their life; who needs to be taken care of. Who knew that dogs can take guns from their pet parents in that aspect too.
It is not just the mental frontier that dogs have helped humans with; they have been instrumental in taking care at the physical front too. Yes, your pooch’s loyalty, focus and trainability has risen them to yet another milestone of military. The wolf in them never backs down at giving and taking a good fight. Wearing the inherent accolades of bravery and selflessness, canine comrades have a history to them.
Romans and Greeks discovered this eerie yet so obvious capability of a dog in the armed forces. The Mastiff-breeds were sent to the battlegrounds fully equipped with armour from both ends. Yet, it was only after the Second World War that the canine comrades got their due limelight by the American army. Sergeant Stubby of the 102nd Infantry detected the enemy gas chambers and barked to make it evident. Since then, human beings have made dogs part of their troops.
A comrade in the army is supposed to project itself in the most coveted sense. They need to be vigilant and low key at the same time. The heightened sensory organs of a dog make them godly sent for these secretive and mysterious army prospects. Although they are mute, dogs decode gestures quickly and take immediate actions, given, you train them well.
Thanks to the movies, all of us draw upon the same imagery of a German Shepherd sniffing for drugs in our heads when we think of army dogs. Although it represents the subset of the truth of an army dog, it is not the entire truth. Along with German Shepherds, multiple breeds are proven to be adept for the troops, and apart from sniffing, there are many jobs a dog can perform in the army.
Various jobs of 'working' dogs are
As the name suggests, these dogs are what we commonly call the 'watchdogs'. Not only for the army, but a household seeking extra safety adopt dogs for these purposes.
In the army, they complement their 'handler'. A handler is a person that trains the dog to use its natural gift of senses to the best of the army's use. These dogs usually walk alongside their guards/handlers. Once they sense an approaching stranger or enemy from miles away, they communicate this to their companion by growling or barking to bring them to a state of alert. With 98% accuracy in the job, dogs have brought immense peace of mind and sleep to the troops.
Their muted self sets them to the disadvantage of expression, but becomes their superpower in the army. They are trained to work silently to detect and alert the enemy presence and ambushes. The job includes walking in front of the troops to gather information about the positionality of the enemy troop. This information is used to formulate the plan of action of the army.
As the name suggests, messenger dogs transmit messages from one comrade to another. According to a study, it is observed that dogs can learn up to 250 words in a lifetime. This fact is used effectively by the trainers, and code words are taught to an army dog to convey messages among army men.
MINE DOGS & TUNNEL DOGS
From times immemorial, armies have taken the underground routes to invade the enemy army camps. Canine comrades have been instrumental in eliminating this fear to a large extent. Their wild background enables them to dig the ground faster than even machinery could equip. Additionally, they can easily detect metallic and non-metallic land mines as well as booby traps and barb wires.
There are many such examples in history, the most recent one is the award winning story of Vida, a Labrador who detected 5 mines and 1 grenade.
A lot of dogs have sacrificed their lives to safeguard the innumerable lives of the army men.
As the name suggests, dogs have been used to locate fellow injured comrades too. Wartime calls for massive injuries and deaths. Many comrades have been saved as they could be timely found, with the help of the smelling sense of a dog.
EXPLOSIVE DETECTION DOGS
These have been the most common types of dogs that pick on the scent of various items and alert their handlers. You could find them at the airport, or a bomb evacuation team.
A dog's sense of smell is 50 times more powerful than that of a man. This superpower has enabled the protection of hundreds and thousands of men from the explosives and supply of drugs. Remember the movie “Holiday : A soldier is never off duty”? Eight girls were saved from terrorists, through the help of this superpower of a dog.
POWER OF TRAINING AND FOCUS
Have you been wondering if your pup can become an army comrade too? Various factors determine this, training being the most important of them all. Like any army-aspirant is trained rigorously, dogs are put to hardcore training from the beginning.
Training that begins from the age of 10 to 11 months results in serving the nation and its people for a lifetime. The marker of severity lies in the fact that only 50% make it through the training.
Even the training begins after the dog in question meets the prerequisites of a disease-free body, followed by a ten-day observation period for compatibility.
Some toys are used to mimic a bomb, trial attacks are conducted, mental and physical pressure is imposed on them to transform every ounce of softness in them, steel-hard. Opposing the normative beliefs of aggression as prerequisites in a dog, the army requires more balance than aggression. It is only the emotionally stable dogs; having the right level of excitement and aggression, who can make it through the training.
Training essentially uses the inherent qualities of a dog to channelise towards common goals. It is a fact not unknown that dogs are differentiated on the basis of their looks, behaviours, temperaments etc. Consequently, some dogs would be more adept at the tasks of the army than others.
It wouldn't be wrong if we take the liberty of deeming them as the OGs of the army squad! The top pick for various armies across the world, German Shepherds are strong, agile and easy to train for various jobs in the army. They have a very balanced emotional quotient, along with a predictable responsive system. If you have a German Shepherd by your side, as a wingman, half the battle is won.
These German Shepherd look-alikes make an ideal choice for the army, owing to their petite size. Belgian Malinois are at an advantage because they are more agile, can be parachuted and easily sneaked into places.
Even the SEALS were accompanied by a Belgian Malinois named Cairo during their raid on Osama Bin Laden in 2013.
Everyone who is or has been a pet-parent to this breed must be a witness to their unparalleled sonic sensory system. This makes them appropriate for all the bomb evacuation squads and drug testing agencies.
This lean looking, agile body structure makes the best choice for American marine services. Inherent intelligence, trainability and vigilance make them perfect for scout duties.
Along with this, Rottweiler, Boxer Airedale Terrier, Alan Schnauzer, Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies and Yorkshire Terrier are some of the other breeds that are great choices for the army, based on major geopolitical and territorial aspects.
With all the respect, love and honour, the army comes with it’s hard hitting repercussions too. Army and deaths go hand in hand, no amount of training can seep this truth. If not deaths then, dogs in the army are prone to such fatal diseases & injuries, and the constant fear of death hovers above them constantly.
If there is a prize for being too good, euthanasia is it. The process of euthanasia is a euphemism for a death that is endowed on our loyal canine, for being too well versed of the ways of the army.
From the army perspective, the reasoning behind euthanasia stands on the fact that the dogs are so well known of the army bases, that enemies can use them against the army themselves. So after an age old service to the nation and its men, they are awarded with a peaceful death.
After a lot of backlash on this practise, many countries like the USA have stopped this practise and these army ‘veterans’ are open to adoption by the general public. In 2000, President Clinton passed a law called “Robby’s Law” that made euthanasia of dogs after military services illegal.
Like most of the army men, dogs serving for the country are also called veterans. They are out to the general public for adoption, although dogs are priceless regardless of their duties, but these canine comrades witness a whopping price tag in the pet industry. Most generally dogs and the handlers tend to choose each other even after the war time, for they have already shared all the happy and sad memories. Some dogs are so attached to their handlers that they tend to leave the army after they witness the death of their handlers. They cannot bear the death of their best pals, and thus lead a life devoid of duties and as a recluse.
Many dogs lose their lives before they could be deemed a veteran. Handlers and dogs share a symbiotic relationship; a family of sorts. Like a dog is taught to treat a handler, similarly handlers are taught to treat an injured dog in the battlefield, but if the dogs still lose their lives, they are engraved on the list of brave martyrdoms. There are various traditions in the army that honour comrades, one such tradition is that the feeding bowl of the dog is kept upside down after its death. Tributes are paid to the martyrdom through singing poems like Guardians of the Night
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Yes! Like humans, dogs too, have the horrors of this trauma. Those unlucky ones who get caught in the vicious cycle of the war, even after their due tenure, have it more difficult than others. Vets are assisted for these dogs specifically to help them cope with the horrors of bloodshed, and get them back to life.
Gunner; a marine bomber, could not forget the terror of war times and deals with PTSD today. These dogs prove to be perfect companions to their handlers dealing with the same issue, even after their retirement. They both share a bond, unknown to the world, because none has been in their place.
The constant smell of gun powders have already shrunken their life, by blocking their lungs. So for the little time that is left, it is not only our duty but a form of tribute that we empathise with their background, show patience, shower them with love and above all respect them. They do not get to enjoy the luxuries of life like normal dogs do, so in the grey of their age, shower them with as many treats and toys as you can, from pet store online.