Why Is The Army Dumping Hundreds Of War Dogs In Afghanistan?
The lack of character that shows up in the decisions being made throughout our federal government doesn’t stop at the military, sadly. The shame pervades everything the government does.
By then, Daniel had been in Afghanistan two months. It was July 2012, his third tour of duty and his first with Oogie, his military working dog. They were leading their platoon on yet another patrol, clearing a no-name village with maybe 15 houses and one mosque, when they began taking fire.
“The first thing that went though my mind,” he says, “was, ‘S- -t. My dog’s gonna get shot.’ ”
It was a perfect L-shaped ambush, bullets coming from the front and the right, the platoon pinned down in a flat, open landscape. Along the road were shallow trenches, no more than 14 inches deep. Daniel grabbed Oogie, squeezed him in a hole, then threw himself over his dog.
It went against all his Army training. “They tell us it’s better for a dog to step on a bomb than a US soldier,” he says. The truth is Daniel, like just about every other dog handler in the armed forces, would rather take the hit himself.
Five weeks into their training, Daniel and Oogie were inseparable. They showered together. They went to the bathroom together. When Daniel ran on the treadmill, Oogie was on the one right next to him, running along.
That week, Daniel got Oogie’s paw print tattooed on his chest.
“The few times you safeguard your dog are slim compared to what he does every time you go outside the wire,” Daniel says. “That’s your dog. The dog saves you and saves your team. You’re walking behind this dog in known IED hot spots. In a firefight, the dog doesn’t understand.”
Bullets were coming closer now; the enemy had long ago picked up on how important the dogs were to the Americans, how successful they were at sniffing out bombs. “I know there were three separate incidents where they shot at Oogie,” Daniel says. And as he lay on top of his dog, he stroked him and whispered and kept him calm.
After five minutes, Daniel’s platoon pushed the enemy back and away, and the first thing Daniel did was get Oogie to shade. “He’s a black Lab, and it was very hot out,” he says. He strapped two big bags of saline to Oogie’s shoulders and hydrated him intravenously, then the two went back out to clear more villages.
“Oogie’s always ready to go,” Daniel says. “He’d hurt himself if I didn’t stop him — he has that much prey drive.”
But when the deployment ended, the shame began…
The only solace these soldiers had was the knowledge that they could apply to adopt their dogs, and that the passage of Robby’s Law in November 2000 would protect that right.
More than three years later, Daniel still doesn’t have Oogie. The dog has vanished.
Daniel, who doesn’t want to use his real name because he’s on active duty, is one of at least 200 military handlers whose dogs were secretly dumped out to civilians by K2 Solutions in February 2014, a Post investigation has found.
At least three government workers were also involved and may have taken dogs for themselves.
It’s a scandal that continues to this day, with hundreds of handlers still searching for their dogs — and the Army, the Pentagon and K2 Solutions covering up what happened, and what may still be happening.
And the standard bureaucratic excuse doesn’t fly…
Multiple handlers told The Post that they have called and emailed K2 repeatedly about their dogs, submitting adoption paperwork as they were instructed to do. Yet they have been given little to no information, and at times deliberate misdirection, they say. Finding military dogs isn’t hard: They all have microchips, and the TEDD dogs have serial numbers tattooed on their ears.
These handlers also say K2 trainers who were with them in Iraq and Afghanistan told them they should contact K2, or K2 would contact them, once their dogs were available for adoption.
“When I contacted K2, they were like, ‘She’s gone and adopted out,’ ” says Brian Kornse, who did three tours of duty and has PTSD. “I got in contact with them in February of 2014” — the same month K2 was holding multiple adoption events.
Kornse believes his dog, a black Lab named Fistik, was given to a former Pentagon employee, Leo Gonnering, who may still have been working for the government in 2014. A man who left a voicemail for The Post from “Leo’s phone” said Gonnering “adopted the dog from the Army two years ago. He and his family have no intention of giving the dog up to his prior handler.” He named Kornse as the likely handler and has renamed the dog Mystic.
At the end of the day, this is the kind of government stupidity that it has to work to achieve. How hard would it have been to just make the handlers the guardians of the dogs and give them the opportunity to either adopt them or find them a good home with the cooperation with a defense contractor?
And how much do you think is being spent on that defense contract so that K2 can give dogs to strangers when the handlers want to give them homes?