It’s 7 a. m., just north of the town of Safar, Afghanistan, and Fenji M675 is already panting. Her thick, black German shepherd coat glistens in the hot August sun. Fenji is out in front of ten marines, leashed to a D-ring that’s attached to the body armor of her handler, Corporal Max Donahue. He’s six feet behind her and holds his rifle ready.
Fenji leads the marines down the flat dirt road, past the trees and lush vegetation in this oasis amid the deserts of southern Afghanistan. She ignores the usual temptations: a pile of dung, a wrapper from a candy bar. Her mission doesn’t include these perks. Her nose is what may keep them all alive today, and she can’t distract it with the trivial. Coalition forces have been sweeping Safar of insurgents and their bombs, allowing the Safar Bazaar marketplace to reopen and locals to start living normally again. The Taliban had to go somewhere else. So they headed north. And they planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) like seedlings among the poppy fields and grape fields and off to the sides of roads, under thick weeds.
Around here, any step you take could be your last.
And that’s why Fenji is in the lead, walking point. IEDs are the top killer in Afghanistan— even with the highest technology, the best mine- sweeping devices, the most sophisticated bomb- jamming equipment, and the study of “pattern of life” activities being observed from remote piloted aircraft. But there is one response that the Taliban has no answer for: the soldier dog, with his most basic sense— smell— and his deepest desire— some praise, and a toy to chew.
“Seek!” Donahue tells Fenji, and they continue down the road, leading the men from the 3/ 1 (Third Battalion First Marines). She walks with a bounce to her step, tail up and bobbing gently as she half trots down the road. Every so often she stops and sniffs a spot of interest and, when she doesn’t find what she’s seeking, moves on. She almost looks like a dog out on a morning stroll in a park. Donahue, in full combat gear— some eighty pounds of it, including water for his dog— keeps up with her.
Fenji stops at a spot just a foot off the side of the road. She’s found something of great interest. Without taking her eyes off the spot, she sniffs around it swiftly and her tail starts to wag. Suddenly she goes from standing up to lying down, staring the entire time at the spot. The men have stopped walking and are watching her. Her wagging tail kicks up some dust. Everything is silent now. No more sniffing, no crunching of boots.
Suddenly a hushed, enthusiastic voice cuts through the dead quiet. “Fenjiii! That’s my girl!”
Reprinted by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from SOLDIER DOGS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA’S CANINE HEROES by Maria Goodavage. Copyright © 2012 by Mari
People all over the world were riveted by the story of Cairo, the Belgian Malinois who was a part of the Navy SEAL team that led the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. In Soldier Dogs, Maria Goodavage offers a tour of military working dogs’ extraordinary training, heroic accomplishments, and the lasting impacts they have on those who work with them.
Beyond tales of training, operations, retirement, and adoption into the families of fallen soldiers, Goodavage explores why dogs love being on a mission with a handler they trust, no matter how deadly the IEDs they are sniffing, nor how far they must parachute or rappel from aircraft into enemy territory.
Soldier Dogs is an unprecedented look at some of our most devoted warriors.
Hardcover Book : 304 pages
Publisher: Penguin Putnam, Inc. ( March 15, 2012 )
Item #: 13-557460
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 inches
Product Weight: 14.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
This book is very informative about the dogs they use in the military. It explains how the dogs are bought and trained to work different types of jobs. The detailed stories of the different dog handlers and their dogs was the best part of the book. I wish more of the book was about that instead of explaining things like how a dogs nose works. I would say that about half the book was fluff just to fill the pages. It's a book worth reading though.
Reviewer: Rene B
Plenty of detail on the selection and training of our military's soldier dogs. Would like to see a follow-up book with stories about individual soldier dogs and their contribution to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the few in the book were very interesting.