It's been reported that a military dog accompanied the Navy SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden. But what kind of dog? What kind of dog? Well, it was probably a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, breeds that boast "the best overall combination of keen sense of smell, endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence and adaptability to almost any climatic condition," according to a military fact sheet cited in The New York Times. The dog was no doubt awesome, but knowing the exact breed is very important to breeders who are eager to claim the hero canine as one of their own:
Suzanne Belger, president of the American Belgian Malinois Club, said she was hoping the dog was one of her breed “and that it did its job and came home safe.” But Laura Gilbert, corresponding secretary for the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, said she was sure the dog was her breed “because we’re the best!”
The identity of the dog, like those of the 79 SEALs, has not been made public, but that hasn't stopped everyone from wondering about it. The Times points out that military dogs can sniff out explosives and booby-traps, and that "a shepherd or a Malinois runs twice as fast as a human"--meaning that if bin Laden had tried to escape on foot, the dog could have prevented his getaway. The Sun reports, in a kind of endearingly breathless way, that military dogs "have been trained to jump from aircraft at 25,000ft" but that the one in Abbottabad was likely "strapped to an assault team member" and lowered on a rope from a Black Hawk helicopter.
Slate devotes an Explainer column to military dogs, including the process by which a dog is matched with a trainer (it's a little bit like speed-dating). And The Daily rolls out a report with some brow-raising facts. Among them: SEAL dogs usually have their teeth replaced with "titanium fangs capable of ripping through enemy protective armor," at a cost of "about $2,000 a tooth." And the military doesn't give out any medals for dogs--but the United States War Dogs Association has been "petitioning the Department of Defense" to "change that."
Other things we can speculate about the hero dog: It may have had a linkup vest with a camera and speakers. The camera would have allowed soldiers elsewhere to see what the dog was seeing; the speakers would have let the soldiers command the pooch remotely. It might also have been wearing "a self-inflating lifejacket," Discovery News reports, in case it ended up in the water. And it may have been "trained to sniff out enemy troops from up to 2 miles away," according to The Daily. Basically, we'd say that Gizmodo's assessment--"the Navy SEAL Team 6 dog is a bigger badass than you"--seems like a fair one.
Photo by Reuters