Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Chaney the Hero Dog
By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent In the fall of 2010, Marine Lance Corporal Matt Hatala deployed to Afghanistan. Along with him was an 85-pound black Labrador named Chaney. The two were part of the Marine’s IDD program, which paired single-purpose detection dogs with infantrymen — and their job was to find bombs. ...
By Rebecca Frankel
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
In the fall of 2010, Marine Lance Corporal Matt Hatala deployed to Afghanistan. Along with him was an 85-pound black Labrador named Chaney. The two were part of the Marine’s IDD program, which paired single-purpose detection dogs with infantrymen — and their job was to find bombs.
In the beginning the two didn’t get along. Chaney was stubborn and resistant and Hatala had little patience for his new partner’s unwilling attitude. But, as it happens with deployments that are remote and long, dog and handler began to bond. It didn’t take long, Hatala says, before he felt like Chaney was his best friend.
Full disclosure: Hatala and Chaney are one of the MWD teams I write about in War Dogs (in the photo above Hatala is reading the book to Chaney who appears to be a very intent and serious listener). Their story resonates on a host of levels of not only the war dog-handler bond but of wartime experience. Chaney, as Hatala describes him, is not only strong-willed but was usually calm and collected on their missions — except for one patrol when Chaney proved himself a loyal and fierce protector. And, as we’ve heard so many times before about the effect MWDs have on the men and women with whom they serve, Chaney’s presence provided great levity and relief for all the men stationed at Hatala’s FOB.
But Hatala and Chaney’s story didn’t end with their deployment. In the spring of 2013, Hatala was able to adopt Chaney and bring him home to Iowa. And over the last year, it’s been remarkable to watch (and hear) the difference having his MWD in his home life has made on Hatala.
Their life together over the last year (at least the view that I’ve been able to see recorded on Facebook and shared emails shows photos) has included the road trip to pick up Chaney in South Carolina, a free Veterans Day meal at Applebee’s (Chaney got his own steak), and the new job they’re now doing together — helping to educate others about veterans dealing with PTSD and how dogs can make a difference. Work which has recently garnered them some big attention.
The American Humane Association has been hosting an annual Hero Dog awards and this year this year Chaney has been voted the military dog of the year. (He’s now a finalist in the overall competition — other categories include search and rescue, law enforcement, and guide and hearing dogs.)
As Hatala’s entry reads on their site:
Chaney and I now spend many hours volunteering around the Midwest for a nonprofit organization, Retrieving Freedom, Inc. (RFI). RFI trains service dogs for disabled veterans and children with autism. Chaney now spends his time educating others about what a service dog can do and does for veterans, including scent detection demonstrations for children. Currently, more service members are committing suicide from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) than are being killed in action — approximately 22 each day. Service dogs can help prevent this from happening.
My bias here is clear, but I’m very proud of the work they’re doing, proud to know these two. For anyone who wants to show their support for Chaney and Hatala, voting is still open for one more week. Vote Hatala&Chaney 2014!
Rebecca Frankel is senior editor, special projects at Foreign Policy. Her book War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love comes out on Oct. 14.
Thomas E. Ricks is a former contributing editor to Foreign Policy. Twitter: @tomricks1
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