That a brave young soldier died of the wounds he incurred while working with his dog to find weapons and explosives is more than sad, it is distressing.
Only a week or two ago I read of the work these handlers and their dogs are doing in Afghanistan to clear explosives from the ground, to the benefit of soldiers and civilians alike. The number of civilians, often children, maimed and killed by the IEDs laid by the insurgents is depressingly high. I read of a dog and his handler who had discovered a record number of arms caches and explosives. A man and his dog whose six month tour of duty had been extended because of their success.
Pictures of the dogs, often spaniels, though not exclusively, showed exuberant animals with flag like tails and bright , intelligent eyes, bounding ahead of their handlers, full of verve and a love of life. The handlers spoke with love and pride of the work their animals carried out with unbounding energy.
I surveyed my motley crew of five dogs, who sit when asked and come to my call when it pleases them and marvelled at the untapped ability of dogs in general and the willingness they have to work with us; their loyalty and desire to please; their capacity for fun and work, and not caring which task was which.
I would say that we like to think they love us, yet experts say the don’t – they just follow the leader and work with their ‘pack’.
And then, this week, I read again about the same record breaking soldier and dog team. Lance Corporal Liam Tasker (26),had been shot and killed while working with his dog, Theo, a beautiful Springer Spaniel, in the prime of life.
And Theo died immediately afterwards of a massive heart attack.
Now tell me that dogs do not love, and grieve.
My heart goes out to Liam Tasker’s family, friends and colleagues.