TV special shows glory, trauma of military dogs
This 2012 publicity photo provided by Animal Planet shows a soldier and military working dog, in Afghanistan. Animal Planet embedded four camera crews with front line troops for six weeks to create a television special called "Glory Hounds," where each crew was assigned to a handler and his dog and the show set out to prove that dogs were more than military "tools." “Glory Hounds" airs Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and repeats on Feb. 24 at 9 a.m. ET/PT. (AP Photo/Animal Planet)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's been almost seven months since a bomb exploded on a strip of dirt in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leonard Anderson can only remember a reassuring voice.
He has seen the ambush and its aftermath on film, though: The man behind the voice putting a tourniquet on Anderson's leg as a medic tended to the other, listening to his own cries for help and his dog's whines of worry.
The blast that severely wounded the military dog handler was captured on film by one of four camera crews that were embedded with front line troops last year. The voice that reassured him belonged to Craig Constant, a cameraman for Animal Planet's "Glory Hounds" TV special, which airs Thursday.
It took the network a year to get permission to film the two-hour special, which followed the animals into combat zones where insurgents and buried explosives could be around any bend or under any pile of dirt.
Military dogs are prized targets for Taliban insurgents, Anderson said. They sniff out bombs, making safe passage for troops to follow and saving countless lives. The U.S. Department of Defense calls each dog a piece of equipment, but Constant says they're much more than that.
"They call them tools, and they are not. They are soldiers. They just have four paws instead of two feet. They walk in front of the platoons. It's a deadly game, and they die all the time. But they save lives by finding IEDs that technology can't find," said Constant, referring to the military terminology for improvised explosive devices.
This 2012 publicity photo provided by Animal Planet shows Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leonard Anderson and a bomb-detecting dog, Azza, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, in Afghanistan. Animal Planet television special "Glory Hounds," included coverage of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anderson and his team, when they embedded four camera crews with front line troops for six weeks. “Glory Hounds" airs Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and repeats on Feb. 24 at 9 a.m. ET/PT. (AP Photo/Animal Planet)
Anderson became the handler for an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois named Azza when he asked for the job as kennel master at the base in Sperwan Ghar, said the 29-year-old who loves animals.
The breed is among four — including Dutch shepherd, German shepherd and Labrador retriever — that is commonly used by the military because they are of similar size and temperament, easy to train and enjoy working, said Ron Aiello, president of the U.S. War Dogs Association.
Azza became a military dog when she was 3 and detecting explosives was her specialty, said Anderson.