[Update Below] Yesterday we demanded to see photos of the war dog that helped kill Osama bin Laden and though it doesn't look like the Department of Defense is going to be releasing the pup's name or picture (let alone its breed) that just means we'll have to make due with the tons of photos and information about war dogs (or Military Working Dogs) that hit the internet in the past twenty-four hours. For instance did you know that "The U.S. military often replaces a working dog's teeth with titanium fangs capable of ripping through enemy protective armor?"
Did we mention that the average German Shepard's bite can exert between 400 and 700 pounds of pressure? Yeah. More fun facts we've learned today include:
- As of early 2010 there were nearly 2,800 active-duty dogs deployed by the U.S. Army, which has the largest canine contingent in the world. 600 of those dogs are currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- "The military uses a variety of breeds, but by far the most common are the German shepherd and the Belgian Malinois, which 'have the best overall combination of keen sense of smell, endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence and adaptability to almost any climatic condition,' according to a fact sheet from the military working dog unit."
- Dogs have been trained to jump from high in the air since the 1930s. They normally do it with their trainer, but can under certain circumstances make short jumps into water (while wearing floatation devices) on their own.
- The special eye gear that war dogs are sometimes seen wearing are called "doggles." Awww.
- Those titanium fangs we mentioned? They cost about $2,000 a tooth and if you were to bitten by them it would feel like "being stabbed four times at once with a bone crusher."
- And that's not all, "Scientists at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine have genetically bred and specially trained canines to not only detect stationary bombs or bomb-making materials, but identify and alert their handler to the moving scent of explosive devices and materials left behind in the air, say, as a suicide bomber walked through a crowd—all without ever tipping off the perpetrator." Those "vapor-wake dogs" cost around $20,000 each.
So, while we may never find out the identity of the courageous canine who helped take down one of America's great threats, at least we can be assured it was one badass pup who very possibly has one crazy set of grills. Oh, and also? When war dogs are retired they are often put up for adoption. Yet another reason to consider adopting an older dog rather than a puppy if you are in the market for a new best friend.
Update: Sigh, we thought the titanium teeth thing might be too good to be true. Wired now tells us that they don't actually go and replace war dogs' teeth with titanium replacements. Instead the metal teeth are only installed for medical reasons when a war dog chips or loses one of its teeth.