DTG: 03JUL15 1900HRS
Location: FOB Homestead
Status report on the effectiveness of K9 teams on local operations. During the initial phases of Operation Enduring Baby it seemed as though the resident K9 squad remained largely indifferent to the infant insurgent now in their midst. Their ability to detect IEDs (improvised explosive diapers) seemed almost non-existent, but it was the handler’s assessment that the amount of random noise coming from him likely drove them back to a distance they could not effectively operate from. Unfortunately, two members of the K9 team were retired early in the early phase of the operation, and a new K9 was brought in to backfill. The new K9, codename Gunner, has adapted superbly to his role here in operations. His ability to detect explosive material is seemingly uncanny, while his protective instincts have seemed to be on point from his arrival in this area of operations.
Gunner the Guard Dog
For those that don’t know us personally, a little backstory is in order before properly introducing Gunner the Wonderdog. Before Gunner came along we had three dogs (we’re dog lovers in case it wasn’t obvious yet): Charlie, an energetic lab mix who was about 6 years old, Chuck, a chunky but affectionate beagle who was around 8 years old, and the youngest Cassidy, a malinois mix who we took in from a rescue and provided her a pack to help her get over her skiddishness. Cassidy is about 3 years old now.
All three dogs had adjust well when we PCS’d to Georgia back in March of 2014. When we brought our son home in early November all of them were happy to sniff and lick the baby when allowed, but there wasn’t really any ‘special treatment’ when it came to the infant. Cassidy was probably the one that took to the baby the quickest, always coming over to check on him when she heard him crying and always eager to lick him clean when she felt he needed it. Sadly, in mid-January of 2015 our lab Charlie came down with a sudden onset of Addison’s disease, something the vet assured us was treatable. It would mean constant attention and treatment the rest of his life, but we were hopeful he’d make a recovery and get back to his usual energetic goofy self. Unfortunately, it seemed we caught his condition a little too late, and one evening after a check up at the vet his body went into shock and he passed away right in front of us.
We both took Charlie’s passing pretty hard. While my wife had picked him when we’d been looking for a second dog, he’d largely become a big daddy’s boy. He cuddled with me on the couch, followed me everywhere around the house, and was always the first waiting at the door for me to come home each day. I’d never fully realized how close Charlie and I were until after he’d passed and I felt that emptiness in my life. We still had the other two, but both Chuck and Cassidy had always been more partial to my wife than me, so it just wasn’t the same without Charlie.
It was after Charlie’s passing that we decided to begin the search for another dog to make our pack whole again. I’d decided I wanted another large breed dog, and having always wanted a German Shepherd we narrowed our search. After a couple of weeks we found an 8 week old German Shepherd puppy who was in urgent need of a home, and after contacting his owner we were bringing Gunner home to join the pack by the end of the week. The timing couldn’t have been better.
One day shortly after getting Gunner I’d taken Chuck to the vet for a check up and a refill for his thyroid meds. The vet had mentioned that something didn’t sound right with his heart and that we should probably look into getting that examined more closely by a specialist. It didn’t sound like much of an emergency, and unfortunately the closest ‘specialist’ was over 150 miles away. We’d been making arrangements to get him looked at more closely to determine how bad the condition was, but before we could I woke in the middle of the night to find he’d panted his last breath next to me in our bed. When Charlie passed in front of us there had been an urgency getting him to the animal hospital in the hopes they could do something, anything to save him. But when I woke up to find Chuck had gone in the night it was obvious there was nothing that could be done. Regardless, I got dressed and at 3 in the morning drove him to the animal hospital. When I’d gotten there the night vet had confirmed that he’d succumbed to congenital heart failure.
Our pack was down to two now, but on the bright side the two that remained were both young and in good health. After Chuck passed we decided it was best to just stick with the two dogs we still had for awhile before bringing another dog into the mix, at least until our son was a little older. Having a GSD puppy in the house was like having two babies that need constant supervision anyways, the last thing we needed was another new dog to look after as it adapted to our home and pack.
After all, Gunner was a handful.
An Instant Bond
When we first got Gunner we’d limited his interaction with the baby for awhile just to play things safe. We weren’t worried that he would intentionally hurt the baby or anything, but anyone who was raised a German Shepherd puppy will tell you they are little landsharks and will bite anything and everything in their path. But even though we didn’t allow him close enough to gnaw on the baby he was still quick to bond with his new little human. When the minion napped or slept in his crib Gunner would sleep underneath it, at least until he grew too big to fit under the crib. There were a few accidental nibbles here and there, but nothing too serious as both continued to grow older.
Our son will be 8 months on the 5th, with Gunner not too far behind him at about 7 months now himself. Already the two of them are inseparable. Where the minion naps, Gunner naps. When the minion has a bit too much drool on his face or some extra bits of food or formula, Gunner is quick to help get him cleaned up. When the minion is playing on the floor or practicing his combat roll skills, Gunner is there to help balance him or keep him from going too far.
Benefits of Getting a Puppy with a Newborn
Now I’m most certainly NOT advising that anyone go out and find themselves a new puppy right after they have a baby. Puppy’s are after all babies themselves, and while they grow and figure things out a little quicker than our babies will they can still be a handful. The timing for us just sort of worked out in that mysterious way, with our two older dogs passing away and the need for another dog to balance things out. The youngest we’d ever adopted was Cassidy, and even she was about a year old when we took her in. This was the first time we had taken in an actual puppy. But I’m glad it worked out that way for a number of reasons.
The two of them will have the benefit of growing up together. By the time our son is old enough to start running around, Gunner will be old enough to safely guide him and keep him safe in his new found wanderlust. As our son grows older, he will have a dog who has already taken his crap for a long time and will have the patience to continue putting up with it as he learns how to properly treat animals. When he wants to play, Gunner will be there to play with him. When he’s lonely, Gunner will be there. When he’s sad, Gunner will be there. When he’s scared, Gunner will be there for him.
Explosive Diaper Detection
This is something I’d touched on in an earlier post, K9 Deployed for Explosive Diaper Detection. I don’t know if it’s because he’s a German Shepherd, a breed known for their strong noses and ability to track a scent, but Gunner has an uncanny nose for the dirty diaper. When the minion blows his diaper out often we’ll hear the blast or smell it soon enough, but occasionally it takes awhile before we catch on. Not Gunner. If there’s some explosive material in that diaper, Gunner’s the first one to catch on and alert us that something just doesn’t smell right in little man’s drawers.
Gunner’s still young enough that he still gets mouthy with me, whether it’s when I’m petting him or just playing around he’ll still get my hand or arm in his mouth at some point. With our son however, it’s the exact opposite. Once Gunner got out of his initial landshark phase of biting on anything in site, we let him get as close as he wanted with the minion. When we have him on the floor for tummy time or rolling practice, Gunner is always eager to setup shop right next to him on the floor. He’ll either just lay next to him, or hang out next to him while he chews on a rawhide. Either way, it’s inevitable that the little hellspawn will turn his little grabby hands towards the puppy. I mean c’mon, to some curious little hands all that fur is just ASKING to be grabbed and pulled. But unlike when I mess with him, when the baby gets all grabby on him he doesn’t even flinch. He can be pulling on his fur, his tail, his ears, basically any part of the puppy that’s within reach, and he’ll just sit there and take it.
In the end, a dog is truly a boy’s best friend. I, for one, will thoroughly enjoy watching the bond between them grow as our son gets older.