Combat Pets

Soldier Dogs With Same
Traumas as U.S. Troops

We breed them. We treat them as equals, as gods or slaves. We love and we fear them. And we’ve been eating them for ages.
Since we’ve been around, we’ve done with animals as we damn well pleased. Including being killed in our wars, often instead of us.
Elephants, horses and dogs. Dolphins, sea lions and pigeons. Primates and pigs. Even cats and bats have died in wars or in weapon labs.
Now, like the canary in the mine, dogs are sounding the alarm. Some of those deployed in combat are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s a disturbing, if predictable, consequence of their loyalty to the military. And more so than with the troops, these warriors may have been psychologically hurt for life.
Counseling therapy, of course, won’t work with them. In fact, in many cases, treatment is a guess work, at best, and to expect a full recovery is unrealistic.
We could go on with a cliché-ridden diatribe against the evils of war, and our ethically-challenging habit of using animals to do our bidding.
These days, dogs are mainly sent to sniff out ‘improvised explosive devices,’ I.E.D.s, in military jargon, buried by the side of dusty roads of scorched-land Iraq and Afghanistan.
The despicable habit of sacrificing animals in the name of man’s bloody ambition didn’t start, obviously, some three hundred years before the Common Era, with the Carthaginian general Hannibal.
When he cleverly led a pack of elephants across the Alps to catch Romans off guard, there had been already many instances of animals being bludgeoned to death for the sake of their trusted keepers.
Again, one could argue foolishly that if animals could talk, perhaps they could have at least left a word of protest for the record, just before being killed in the hands of man, but that, no doubt, it’s an exercise of futility.
It was always our responsibility to look after the animals, and no amount of dubious justification will ever account and exempt our unspeakable acts against them. Starting by our luring them to our company.
Unfortunately for dogs, they’ve been at the frontier of our relations with animals since, well, almost forever. Even more so than with horses.
And it hasn’t been that great for them, as it hasn’t been great for pretty much any animal to depend so completely on humans to survive.
Just the other week, researchers have denounced the way that breeding of bulldogs, for example, has compromised what used to be such a popular kind of canine.
To talk about pitbulls too, is another testament of the spurious ways dog breeding has been conducted, never having the best interest of the animals as a priority.
And then there’s Rin Tin Tin, arguably the most famous movie dog, which we told you all about a few weeks ago, after the writer Susan Orlean published her arresting account of his life.
The exploitation of these three breeds have caused ethical animal researchers to ask for a ban on them, at least until better conditions are in place, so to meet the intense demand.
It may not be coincidence, thus, that German shepherds, Rin Tin Tin’s breed, are still predominant among the chosen dogs of war.
But since their use as the canine of choice of police forces everywhere is being slowly discontinued, so perhaps it should their presence in the theater of war.
It may take sometime, though, as any change of that magnitude, specially within the realm of the military, is always slow to come by.
But it may be necessary. Ideally, not to be replaced by another breed, of course. Most likely, it may, though, but we dare to suggest none, anyway.
As the use of dogs and horses in combat may have had its origin for its entertainment value at first, so cat circus are starting to pop up, to growing concern for those who love felines.
Up to recently, to be clear, cats were believed to be immune to such as ‘lowly’ a purpose as acting on cue for the amusement of shady sideshow empresarios and loud children.
But, alás, that no longer holds water. Or bouncing balls, for that matter.
In fact, cat shows are said to be planning games and competitions on the side, which may ‘enhance’ their ticket price, but has caused widespread consternation to cat lovers all around.
Annually, touring ‘Russian’ cat shows are becoming, oh the horror, ever so popular. Then, there’s the Internet, but we shall not say anything about those videos because, well, we must confess, we’re completely addicted to them.
It may be all our fault, then, that the advertising industry is jumping on this wagon, and agencies specialized in cats, if there were even such a thing, are making a killing. Very sad, really.

Counter to all the reported damage that’s been causing to German shepherds, Belgian malinois and labrador retrievers, the number of working dogs on active duty has been actually rising.
From 1,800 in 2001, there’re now 2,700 training for the military at a canine school in Lackland, ready to be deployed.
Accordingly, their training and active duty run parallel with the intensity at the Holland hospital, the Pentagon’s canine version of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Therapies, medication, lots of training, all are sadly used to, as with redeployed troops, send the animals back to combat.
For as long as some will find justification for war, so will be for sending our would-be pets too. As simply as that.
Some ‘lucky’ dogs, though, are retired for good, as no amount of recovery will ever heal their traumas. For those, it’d be cruel to speculate here what would happen.
But don’t torture yourself with that, if you can. There are certainly other ways for anyone to exercise compassion towards our veterans of any species.
See to it, if you find it fit. Apart from that, there’s also an even more far-reaching enterprise worth taking, one that can address and hopefully solve this and many other serious questions underlying the issue.
It’s called peace. Learning that innocent animals are literally being shell-shocked in the throes of war only reaffirms the stupidity and utter senseless of sending them there in the first place.

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