My Army Stories

Visit »
Log In

Working animals in Iraq

April 17, 2011 | Lieutenant Colonel Kendall Mower

During my deployment I've run into several different categories of animals that we interact with.  I hadn't realized it, but there are 2 types of working dogs in the military.

There are the K-9 units.  These dogs work with the military police and are trained in specific tasks such as sniffing out narcotics, explosives, or trained to assist in enforcement.  I think most people associate this kind of job when they think of a military working dog.

The second type of official working dog are therapy dogs like Butch.  Butch is one of several dogs in theater that are assigned to the mental health teams.  She happens to be here with us at our combat support hospital.  Her job is to help put the patients at ease.  She is a very well-trained and affectionate dog.  You'll notice she has a "uniform" that she wears.  All working dogs have a rank.  It is typically 1 rank higher than the individual that works with them.  By doing this, if the handler ever caused any harm to the animal, it would be considered assaulting a senior NCO.  On either side of her uniform is her unit, and for fun they have also placed patches for many of the units also stationed here at COB Speicher that she works with.

Now there are also some "semi-official" animals here in Iraq.  I don't have a picture of "Rosie", but she is a mascot that was brought over with one of the units that runs our base.  She is officially sanctioned by leadership, but she hasn't been through the training that Butch has, and her role is more to boost the morale of the Soldiers from her unit.  She's not as friendly, and I've had her actually bark at me - so I don't care for her too much.

There are also the "non sanctioned" animals like this one.  These ones are usually strays that are adopted.  It is illegal to have them, but people tend to ignore that at times.  I've even heard of them being released from traps by individuals who don't want to see them taken away by vector control.  


  • Shorty
    4/19/2011 2:03 PM
    I just saw this post while passing by some sites, and that cool. It was really interesting, thanks for posting it.
  • Rommel EL-Nasir Wakama
    4/19/2011 6:10 PM
    may God continue to bless,guide and protect our brothers,sisters,dads,mums,aunt,uncles and friends deployed in trouble zones all around the world.....ARMY STRONG...
  • Carrie
    4/19/2011 10:32 PM
    As one who considers not only the Army, but a position with either the MPs or Animal Care Specialists, I found your post to be an awesome boost for me as I await my ASVAB scores...God Bless, and may you all be safe wherever you are stationed.
  • Leyna
    4/19/2011 11:44 PM
    I like the idea of that is typically the working dogs are 1 rank higher than their handler.
  • Pat
    4/20/2011 8:25 AM
    My daughter just returned from Iraq. She loves animals and cared for dogs at one of the installations prior to deployment. This post made me smile.... animals are so therapeutic and good for the human soul. God Bless our men and women in uniform wherever they may be. WE LOVE YOU!
  • M Garner
    4/20/2011 9:06 AM
    What a great article!!! We recently adopted a dog that was rescued in Afghanistan. You would never ever know she was from over there. She is a lab mix and has blended with our family perfectly. She's so gentle with our two kids. There was a little bit of rough play in the beginning. She was a pup though and we have worked with her. A higher ranking NCO made a comment to my husband recently when they saw a dog wandering around over there that the dog should just be shot. My husband asked him why, and he said because it could have rabies. Clearly the dog was not rabid. It was sickening to my stomach that a soldier would be that way. Afterall, we're over there to teach the Afghan people to be more humane to each other and animals. We adopted from Puppy Rescue Mission which has been a Godsend for soldiers! If you have a mascot you need rescued please get in touch with them on Facebook. I believe one of their latest rescues was some puppies off a burn pile. Heartwrenching!!!! Thank you again for this article! I hope to see more therapy dogs!!! From experience - they work!!!! Trust me on this. On his 4th tour now, but I saw a change in my husband after we adopted Ginger! A very good one!!
  • Carley Price
    5/24/2014 9:45 PM
    You have also forgotten the working military dogs who serve in special forces!!!!!!

Your address will never appear on this site