So I'm a sucker for just about every animal show, but recently, my very favorite is Alpha Dogs on NatGeo Wild, where they train GSDs and Mals to do detection and protection work (and one adorable little Cocker Spaniel who was an ace cadaver dog).
Well, last night, I caught another show--this time Glory Hounds on Animal Planet. GSD owners: Be careful watching this show, unless you're fine with walking around with your eyes swollen shut from crying for the next 24 hours.
Glory Hounds follows a unit of Marines and their K9s in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan. The bond between handler and dog was unlike anything I've seen before; these dogs literally save lives every day. I knew that going in, but to witness it in action was an incredible privilege.
Guys--I'm not going to sugar coat it. A very courageous GSD named Zora took the brunt of a grenade while out on patrol with her handler, and the camera captures her lying on the ground (you just see inert paws) with her last quiet whine before she, yes, dies. I spent the rest of the show sobbing, all the harder when they showed her being transported away from the scene, where the Marines in her handler's unit had draped an American flag over her body. This isn't standard protocol. The soldiers did it of their own volition for their fallen sister-in-arms. Later, I bawled anew when in a solemn ceremony, the Marines lined up and silently in cadence saluted the handler as he walked the line with her name and number to add to the cross bearing other K9 casualties.
Zora brought her best friend home to his family, and he brought her home (cremated), where his family took turns laying their hands upon the tin, bowing their heads in gratitude. I hugged Athena to me, and thanked all the K9s and their brave handlers on Zora's behalf for her ultimate sacrifice.
Bottom line: Heroes don't always walk on just two legs.
Semper Fi, Zora.