Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dog Days

Today's edition of the Newport Daily News has a front page story from the Associated Press headlined "Dogs of War". (The story doesn't appear in the online edition of the Daily News, but you can follow this link to the same story in USA Today.) Being a sucker for stories about dogs, as well as newspaper headlines from Shakespeare (American journalism would be much more interesting if all newspaper headlines included quotes from Shakespeare), I had to read it.

The story concerns dogs that have been trained by the military to sniff out roadside bombs and other hazards in Iraq. It notes that their numbers "have been growing by about 20 percent a year since the terrorist attacks of 2001", and that there are about 2000 of these dogs in the military, largely in the Middle East. According to the story, the military relies predominantly on German Shepherd Dogs and Belgian Malinois (a breed that I'd never heard of before reading this story -- though mind you, I'd never heard of Basenjis until my wife informed me three and a half years ago that we were getting one).

Naturally, when there are dogs in dangerous combat situations, you get dogs with combat injuries: "scorched by the desert, slashed by broken glass, pelted by stray bullets, pounded by roadside bombs". The story talks about the medical treatment received by wounded dogs, and points out that "wounded dogs are treated much like wounded troops. 'They are cared for aw well as any soldier,' insists Senior Airman Ronald A. Harden, a dog handler in Iraq." This is obviously meant to reassure dog lovers like myself that the wounded dogs are being well treated, but given the stories that have surfaced about the neglect suffered by human combat veterans, I am not reassured.
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