German Shepherd? Belgian Malinois? Navy SEAL Hero Dog Is Top Secret Navy SEAL, Mike Forsythe, and his dog, Cara, recently broke the world record for "highest man/dog parachute deployment" by jumping from 30,100 feet. Both wear oxygen masks. (PHOTO: Rebecca Frankel)Arthur Jeon, Global AnimalA Belgian Malinois? Maybe. A German Shepherd? Possibly.But regardless of breed, the four-legged hero and source of intense public interest might well be called, ”Double-O-Dog.”Like the fictional 007, the mysterious agent came in the dead of night, helped take out the world’s most notorious terrorist, and then melted back into the shadows alongside 79 two-footed comrades in arms.In keeping with the rest of the SEAL Team Six that killed Osama bin Laden, the dog who reportedly accompanied the Seals on the mission remains shrouded in mystery, and surrounded by speculation.
Though 79 men snuck into Abbottabad, Pakistan, only two dozen of those soldiers slid down the ropes. According to The New York Times
, a military working dog (MWD ) was one of them, strapped onto an assault team member as he was lowered out of a Black Hawk helicopter.
The military is staying tight-lipped about the maverick dog’s identity, refusing to reveal even breed or gender. If the dog is a female, that would make her the one and only of the ‘fairer sex’ in the SEAL Team Six since the Navy SEALs is a men-only force.
The public will probably never know the identity of the four-legged commando, but educated assumptions can be made about the dog’s skills and role in the mission.
Major Ticer, a spokesperson for United States Special Operations Command, told Global Animal yesterday: ”The primary functions of the dogs are finding explosives and conducting searches and patrols. Dogs are relied upon to provide early warning for potential hazards, many times, saving the lives of the Special Operations Forces with whom they operate.”
Major Ticer stated the dog’s identity will remain anonymous, like the rest of the Navy Seals involved in the attack, citing the need to keep operational secrets from falling into the wrong hands.
What’s known is that most dogs who operate in these roles are trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the only United States facility that currently trains dogs for military use.
“We search for our dogs worldwide in the same manner as the general purpose force. We select the best dogs that are assessed to be able to accomplish the assigned mission,” Major Ticer told Global Animal.
When pressed on the type, breed and even gender, Major Ticer said that information was not available, although military sources say it was most likely a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois.
Since a Malinois or a shepherd breed can run twice as fast as a human, another function of the dog could have been to catch anyone trying to escape the compound when the soldiers hit the ground.
According to Mike Dowling, a former Marine Corps dog handler who served in Iraq, there’s a simple explanation for why the Navy SEALs took a dog along on the Osama raid: “A dog’s brain is dominated by olfactory senses.” In fact, Dowling says, a dog can have up to 225 million olfactory receptors in their nose — the part of their brain devoted to scent is 40 times greater than that of a human.
“You can only see what you can see. You can’t see what you don’t see. A dog can see it through his nose,” Dowling added.
Maj. William Roberts, commander of the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base, said the dog on the raid might have been brought in to check the compound for explosives, sniff door handles to see if they were booby-trapped, or search for secret rooms in bin Laden’s compound.
“Dogs are very good at detecting people inside of a building,” Major Roberts said.
Heavily armored hounds equipped with infrared night-sight cameras have been used in the past by the top-secret unit. The war dogs wear ballistic body armour that is said to withstand damage from single and double-edged knives, as well as protective gear which shields them from shrapnel and gunfire.
German Shepherds have been leading the way in SAS raids in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wearing oxygen masks, the pooches have been trained to jump from aircraft at 25,000ft, before seeking out insurgents in hostile environments.
Dogs were also used in the capture of Saddam Hussein and in the killing of the Iraqi dictator’s two sons. Saddam Hussein was, after all, found in a dark hole beneath a mud shack in Iraq.
The animals will attack anyone carrying a weapon and have become a pivotal part of special operations as they crawl unnoticed into tunnels or rooms to hunt for enemy combatants. The cameras on their heads beam live TV pictures back to the troops, providing them with critical information and warning of ambushes.
In August 2010, The Register, a British online tech publication, reported that “top-secret, super-elite U.S. Navy SEAL special forces are to deploy heavily armoured bulletproof dogs equipped with infrared nightsight cameras and an ‘intruder communication system’ able to penetrate concrete walls.” The article also reported that the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Group had “awarded an $86,000 contract to Canadian firm K9 Storm Inc. for the supply of ‘Canine Tactical Assault Vests’ for wear by SEAL dogs.”
The K9 catalogue boasts an array of high-tech canine devices, from storm lights to long lines and leads to an assortment of vests — assault, aerial insertion, and patrol-SWAT — which are rated from “excellent” to “good” in protecting the animal from harm due to everything from bullets to ice picks.
Sounds like 00-Dog stuff to us. Wherever your next mission may take you – and whatever your breed – we salute you!
– Global Animal
For more incredible photos by Rebecca Frankel depicting dogs at war, click here