Best Defense

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Marines in Afghanistan need reinforcements — send more Labs!

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent The Marines operating in southern Afghanistan have sent out a call to arms: they want more war dogs, specifically more Labrador Retrievers, intending to double the number they have now to 647 canines. This particular breed of dog has done quite well in the field detecting IEDs. ...

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

The Marines operating in southern Afghanistan have sent out a call to arms: they want more war dogs, specifically more Labrador Retrievers, intending to double the number they have now to 647 canines. This particular breed of dog has done quite well in the field detecting IEDs.

And it’s a good thing — the number of insurgent attacks using roadside bombs is at an all time high — in July the number was 1,358 — and the Marines, heavily dependent on their bomb-sniffing pups, are keen to replenish their troops. "We want as many as we can get," said Lt. Joshua Diddams, a Marines spokesman told the USA Today.

The Pentagon announced last month that it will spend "$34 million to a Virginia firm to supply it with IED-detector dogs and provide care for them until September 2012." And it’s not just about bulking up the number of dogs — it’s about giving the animals that have been on active duty time to rest and recuperate. War wears on these military dogs, too, and their performance suffers because of it. According to Doug Miller, working dog program manager at the Pentagon, after months in a combat zone the dogs return looking "thinner, just like Marines."

In the photo above Marines take a break from duty and go for a swim with their bomb-sniffing dog, a black Lab named Bee, in the reservoir above the Kajaki dam on Oct. 12 in Kajaki, Afghanistan.

If you have any war-dog stories to share — if you know of any adopted military dogs, or have stories of strays in the field, do send them in to Best Defense!

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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