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dogs of war

Photos show the special bond between combat dogs and their handlers

The dogs are trained to sniff out explosives.

THESE IMAGES GO some way in depicting the bond between a working war dog and his handler.

The pictures are featured in the June issue of National Geographic magazine, along with an in-depth and sometimes heartbreaking look into some of the partnerships between man and beast, from training to sniffing out IEDs in combat zones.

dog10 Sergeant Bourgeois clips Oopey’s toenails before a mission in Afghanistan. Handlers care for their dogs’ every need, learning canine CPR as well as how to spot canine post-traumatic stress disorder, which afflicts some 5 percent of deployed dogs © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic / National Geographic

Journalist Michael Paterniti writes:

But the closest chopper is already ferrying another wounded marine out of the area and takes two hours to arrive. Jose has lost a lot of blood but somehow stays conscious, asking again for Zenit.
The dog, initially 20 feet from the blast, knows something has gone wrong. Zenit lies down next to Jose, his ears pinned to his head, which he lays on his paws. He stays there as they work to save Jose before the chopper arrives. According to protocol, both handler and dog are loaded on board and whisked from the spot.

Marine Corporal John Dolezal poses with Cchaz, a Belgian Malinois, at Twentynine Palms in California.

dog1 © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic / National Geographic

Dogs bred at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the military’s primary canine facility, are given names that begin with a double letter.

Handlers in training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio must learn basic leash skills and hand signals before they start working with a dog.

dog2 © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic / National Geographic

Until then a used ammunition can stands in for the canine.

Army Staff Sgt. Jason Cartwright bonds with his Labrador retriever, Isaac, during a mission to disrupt a Taliban supply route.

dog9 © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic / National Geographic

Dogs are very sensitive to their handlers’ emotions.

Jay Crafter, a trainger for the military says:

If you’re having a bad day, your dog is going to have a bad day.

Sergeant Cartwright has Isaac sniff for weapons and explosives in a basement in Kandahar.

d8 © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic / National Geographic

A dog is trained to sit or lie down and not bark when it locates a target scent. The handler rewards the dog by letting it chew on its toy.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Kristopher Knight conditions Ronnie to the sound of gunfire at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, so that the dog will learn to remain calm during firefight.

dog4 © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic / National Geographic

Some trainers don turbans, play calls to prayer, and bring in farm animals to prepare dogs for the sights, sounds, and smells of Afghanistan

Eliana and Jose Armenta relax with their Boston terriers, Oreo and Sassy, and their German shepherd, Zenit.

dog12 © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic © Adam Ferguson / National Geographic / National Geographic

A retired Marine dog handler, Jose lost his legs in an IED blast while on patrol with Zenit. In 2012 he adopted Zenit. “Dogs complete our family,” he says, a family soon to include a baby.

voc National Geographic National Geographic

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