Friday, May 13, 2011


In the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden, accolades for the Navy Seals rolled in and there was a seemingly insatiable appetite for information about the successful raid. As a result, word that a canine was part of the operation elevated interest in the role of military dogs.

Dogs in Afghanistan are primarily used to sniff out bombs, particularly the homemade varieties which have proved so lethal to U.S. troops in country. By the end of this year, it is projected that nearly 650 dogs will be involved with U.S. troops in Afghanistan out of a total of 2,700 dogs on active duty in the U.S. military.

Pfc. Colton Rusk was a handler of one of these military canines. Rusk, a machine gunner, was a 20-year old Texan who sent his family back in the States a consistent diet of photos and news about his beloved dog and partner—Eli.

In December, Rusk was gunned down by sniper fire in Sangin, one of the deadliest areas in Helmand in Afghanistan. As Rusk’s body lay mortally wounded, Eli crawled on top of his companion in an attempt to guard him from further harm.

When the obituary was written for Rusk, the first survivor listed was Eli, the black Labrador Retriever. Fittingly, Rusk’s parents adopted Eli and brought the dog home to much fanfare in Colton’s hometown of Orange Grove, Texas. After a ceremony at Lackland Air Force Base, the Rusks took Eli home with them.

Upon entering the Rusk home for the first time, Eli made straight for Colton’s bedroom. After sniffing out the room, Eli jumped up on the bed and assumed the spot formerly occupied by his fallen owner, trainer and friend.

The identity of the dog who took part in the Bin Laden raid is still a mystery, except to a chosen few which now includes President Barack Obama. When the President said his “thank you’s” to the Navy Seals last week, the group included the commando dog who was there when the secret raid eliminated America’s, and the world’s, greatest terrorist risk.

Eli, the anonymous dog who helped seal Bin Laden's fate, and the hundreds of others in harm's way each day--these animals deserve our appreciation. Rebecca Frankel, deputy managing editor of, summed it up by saying "I think people go weak in the knees for these dogs. But, their contribution is significant. These are serious dogs."

(Source: The New York Times)

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