An article in the New York Times today, A Bin Laden Hunter on Four Legs, captured my attention. I confess, I haven’t been paying attention to any of the hullabalou over the OBL affair, but mention dogs (or any other critter) and I’m all over it.
The NYT reports that the identities of all 80 members of the American commando team who thundered into Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden are the subject of intense speculation, but perhaps none more so than the only member with four legs. And though the dog in question remains an enigma, there should be little reason to speculate about why there was a dog involved: Man’s best friend is a pretty (bad-ass) fearsome warrior.
Most likely a Belgian Malinois (though officials say it could also have been a German Shepherd), the non-human member of the SEAL team that raided Osama bin Laden’s compound. The heroic pooch was strapped to a Navy SEAL as they were lowered from a hovering helicopter. Bitchin!
Not knowing the first thing about the military, but piqued by the story of the mystery dog, I learned that throughout history, dogs, otherwise known as military working dogs (MWDs), have been intricately involved in the military; dogs have been fighting alongside U.S. soldiers for more than 100 years, seeing combat in the Civil War and World War I. But their service was informal; only in 1942 were canines officially inducted into the U.S. Army.
Today, they’re a central part of U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan — as of early 2010 the U.S. Army had 2,800 active-duty dogs deployed (the largest canine contingent in the world). Currently there are 600 dogs serving in Afghanistan and Iraq alone, and that number is expected to grow substantially over the next year.
Typically, the breed of dogs in the military are either the German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, but also popular with the troops are the growing number of Labrador retrievers. The duties they perform are simply incredible, but one of them in particular I found utterly captivating: skydiving. That’s right, jumping out of an aircraft, high above the earth.
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 U.S. Navy SEAL, Mike Forsythe, and his dog, Cara recently broke the world record for “highest man/dog parachute deployment” by jumping from 30,100 feet. How brave is that? Truly bitchin, man, bitchin.
Show me more! More! More!
In this video a man is shown skydiving with — get ready — his cat! I’m speechless.
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