Once in awhile I will be on the subway and I will see a person entering the subway station with a dog walking in front of them and just as I am about to think to myself that it seems odd that the person is bringing a dog with them in a place where dogs usually are not allowed, I see that the dog is wearing a jacket that marks it as a service dog, meaning that the dog is being useful in some way to that person — we called them “Seeing Eye Dogs” when I was growing up.

I have to admit that I am primarily a cat person, even when they don’t seem to listen to anything we tell them or have awe of our authority as the people who bring home the food that goes in their bowl — and you don’t see too many service cats. However, I have to give a modicum of recognition to the many dogs that heroically put forth tremendous effort to prevent human lives from being lost in Afghanistan.

For the U.S. Marines patrolling the dusty footpaths of southern Afghanistan, a bomb-sniffing black Labrador can mean the difference between life and death.

These “dogs of war” have saved countless lives and their record for finding hidden explosives has won them a loyal following.

“They are 98 percent accurate. We trust these dogs more than metal detectors and mine sweepers,” says handler Corporal Andrew Guzman.

Part of me had to wonder to what extent these dogs are given a choice in the matter given that they are raised to be bomb sniffing dogs from when they are young and so do not know anything else in life. Some would say that in this way they are no different than one who is brainwashed into doing something. I would have to disagree, however, and posit that in fact the dogs have a great deal more understanding than that.

It seems to me that the inherent nature of a dog is to be helpful to others and to save lives — like the dog that helped to save a drowning baby despite having no actual training in helping rescue people — it was just the nature of the dog.

The other concern is in putting the lives of the dogs in danger but given how incredibly good the dogs are at detecting the bombs, it doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue.

It seems that the soldiers in Afghanistan also enjoy having dogs around for the same reason that people own them as pets — they make great friends and are good for brightening the spirit and don’t want much in exchange except for a nurturing environment. Seems like the Marines have found the perfect member!

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