I was never much of a dog person. That is not to say I did not like dogs, because I love all animals. I just always felt that dogs were too needy for me, and required more attention than I could give to a pet. That all changed when I was introduced to an Afghani fighting dog, named Bear.
Bear was rescued by the platoon from 1st battalion, 8th Marines who occupied that patrol base before we arrived. He was found being kicked and hit by locals. It was not uncommon to see the locals torturing and beating dogs, they treated dogs as dirty life forms, and those Marines rescued the dog and took him to the patrol base where Bear chose to say on his own will.
Bear quickly attached himself to those Marines. The patrol base became his new home and the Marines were his family. When it was time for 1/8 to leave, they had to say goodbye to their dog as he would be in our hands from there on out.
(Playing with Bear as we receive mission brief)
Bear quickly adopted us as his “New Marines”, and without skipping a beat, was showing us the same love, loyalty, and companionship. His level of commitment is what shocked me, though. A dog really is man’s best friend.
We went on dismounted patrols every day, and Bear was right there with us. On each patrol, Bear would follow either right next to me, or a little ahead of me to make sure nobody was there. I felt like he was my pointman. The pointman, to the pointman!
(Bear and I observing Taliban activity across the poppy field)
There was not a time when Bear was not on patrol with us, and it made me feel better. In Afghanistan, everywhere you walk you do so in a single file line to decrease the chance of stepping on improvised explosive devices. Someone must be in the front of that line, and that was my job. I cannot put into words how much safer I felt with Bear next to me. He did not like the locals getting to close to any of us, especially me.
Not only was Bear physically intimidating, he was smart too! He knew during night missions to be quiet. If he sensed someone moving about he would alert with a very low, soft sound. Not a bark or growl. Also at night, he would sit on posts with the Marines (Going from post to post to check on each one of them). Again, if he sensed anything out of the norm he would alert us. I think Bear felt like his only job was to protect Marines. And we treated him like he was one of us.
(Bear walking with me on patrol)
I wish I could put into writing how much we loved Bear, the Marines of both 1/8 and 3/2. To us he was sort of like a feeling from a home. His presence on the base and the sight of him running around playing would automatically boost morale. War leaves people physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. At times, there was no better feeling in the world than just sitting there and petting him.
Shortly after returning home I knew exactly what I needed to do. I rescued a dog from Georgia and brought her home. We immediately bonded, and with each year it grows stronger. I’ve had her for 4 ½ years now and the relationship we have is undeniable by any who witnesses it.
She is my best friend and I would be lost without her, but I always think about the dog who changed my perspective of dogs in general, the one who protected me, and the one who almost got me killed as well…My boy Bear!