The Dog That Cornered Osama Bin Laden

- May 12th, 2011

UPDATE, July 5, 2011: It’s now almost two months since I put up this Nosey Parker blog post and I can’t believe the number of people still reading it — and adding loads of new information in their comments at the end of the post. Thank you all. And thanks for all the added comment info, especially on the wonderful Malinois breed, titanium teeth and the Vietnam dogs. And, yes, I apologize for calling Malinois “stubby”  — that would be like calling Jose Bautista “stubby” because he’s not as tall as Alex Rodriguez. Alan.

NOTE: This blog post is exactly the same as the one entitled “Canadian Connection To Raid On Bin Laden Compound.” I just wanted to reflect two different aspects of the story in the headlines.

When U.S. President Barack Obama went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, last week for a highly publicized but very private meeting with the commando team that killed Osama bin Laden, only one of the 81 members of the super-secret  SEAL DevGru unit was identified by name: Cairo, the war dog.

Cairo, like most canine members of the elite U.S. Navy SEALs, is a Belgian Malinois. The Malinois breed is similar to German shepherds but smaller and more compact, with an adult male weighing in the 30-kilo range.

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(German shepherds are still used as war dogs by the American military but the lighter, stubbier Malinois is considered better for the tandem parachute jumping and rappelling operations often undertaken by SEAL teams. Labrador retrievers are also favoured by various military organizations around the world.)

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Like their human counterparts, the dog SEALs are highly trained, highly skilled, highly motivated special ops experts, able to perform extraordinary military missions by SEa, Air and Land (thus the acronym).

The dogs carry out a wide range of specialized duties for the military teams to which they are attached: With a sense of smell 40 times greater than a human’s, the dogs are trained to detect and identify both explosive material and  hostile or hiding humans.

The dogs are twice as fast as a fit human, so anyone trying to escape is not likely to outrun Cairo or his buddies.

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The dogs, equipped with video cameras, also enter certain danger zones first, allowing their handlers to see what’s ahead before humans follow.

As I mentioned before, SEAL dogs are even trained parachutists, jumping either in tandem with their handlers or solo, if the jump is into water.

Last year canine parachute instructor Mike Forsythe and his dog Cara  set the world record for highest man-dog parachute deployment, jumping from more than 30,100 feet up — the altitude transoceanic passenger jets fly at. Both Forsythe and Cara were wearing oxygen masks and skin protectors for the jump.

Here’s a photo from that jump, taken by Andy Anderson for K9 Storm Inc. (more about those folks shortly).

SEALRecordJump

As well, the dogs are faithful, fearless and ferocious — incredibly frightening and efficient attackers.

I have seen it reported repeatedly that the teeth of SEAL war dogs are replaced with titanium implants that are stronger, sharper and scare-your-pants-off  intimidating, but a U.S. military spokesman has denied that charge, so I really don’t know (never having seen a canine SEAL face-to-face). I do know that I’ve never seen a photo of a war dog with anything even vaguely resembling a set of shiny metal chompers.

When the SEAL DevGru team (usually known by its old designation, Team 6) hit bin Laden’s Pakistan compound on May 2, Cairo’s feet would have been four of the first on the ground.

And like the human SEALs, Cairo was wearing super-strong, flexible body armour and outfitted with high-tech equipment that included “doggles” — specially designed and fitted dog googles with night-vision and infrared capability that would even allow Cairo to see human heat forms through concrete walls.

Now where on earth would anyone get that kind of incredibly niche hi-tech doggie gear?

From Winnipeg, of all places.

Jim and Glori Slater’s Manitoba hi-tech mom-and-pop business, K9 Storm Inc., has a deserved worldwide  reputation for designing and manufacturing probably the best body armour available for police and military dogs. Working dogs in 15 countries around the world are currently protected by their K9 Storm body armour.

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Jim Slater was a canine handler on the Winnipeg Police Force when he crafted a Kevlar protective jacket for his own dog, Olaf, in the mid-1990s. Soon Slater was making body armour for other cop dogs, then the Canadian military and soon the world.

The standard K9 Storm vest also has a load-bearing harness system that makes it ideal for tandem rappelling and parachuting.

Navy-Seal-Dog-1

And then there are the special hi-tech add-ons that made the K9 Storm especially appealing to the U.S. Navy SEALs, who bought four of  K9 Storm Inc.’s top-end Intruder “canine tactical assault suits” last year for $86,000. You can be sure Cairo was wearing one of those four suits when he jumped into bin Laden’s lair.

Here’s an explanation of all the K9 Storm Intruder special features:

K9-Storm

Just as the Navy SEALS and other elite special forces are the sharp point of the American military machine, so too are their dogs at the top of a canine military heirarchy.

In all, the U.S. military currently has about 2,800 active-duty dogs deployed around the world, with roughly 600 now in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here’s the link to a dandy photo essay about U.S. war dogs that just appeared in the journal Foreign Policy.

Several of the photos I have included here are from Foreign Policy, as you will see. Other photos are from K9 Storm Inc.

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As for the ethics of sending dogs to war, that’s pretty much a moot point, don’t you think? If it’s ethical to send humans into combat, then why not dogs?

At least the U.S. now treats its war dogs as full members of the military. At the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. combat dogs there were designated as “surplus military equipment” and left behind when American forces pulled out.

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252 comments

  1. Wm Lezchuk says:

    Wow, These animals are super! I’m glad they’re on our side! Thanks Jim M. for sharing the story…………..

  2. Susan A. Condon says:

    These canine units are incredible—–very loyal to their soldiers for whom they work. I’m sure that now they are treated more humanely upon being discharged from their “military career”. For sure, the enemy can not outrun these incredibly fast canines! If they’re treated humanely upon “retirement” I think it is marvelous that they can work tirelessly to improve the efficiency of our military, being relentless in “pursuing the enemy”!

  3. Sheila Spencer Stover says:

    Agree with John Swigert’s post—if there was room for local people, there was room for the dogs. I do not–any longer–donate to people / political causes. Instead,. donate to Humane’sSoc 2nd chance fund, Safe Haven, a no kill cat shelter in Wake Co., NC— and when my budget allows, the organizations trying to reunite Military and their dogs, etc– thank heavens for the animals used in the Military, in homes for the elderly, children with life threatening illness’. It’s been a long time in coming –the awareness we are responsible for the animals we have domesticated, removed from natural habitat— Just as children /adults, stay with their parents/family, so should animals stay with it’s handler/trainer/family. Marsha hit it right on the head.

  4. omie svetlick says:

    GOD bless the USA

  5. Sherri W says:

    Having grown up as a military brat, being there when the big plane came back from Vietnam with the families while they unloaded the flag covered caskets, became a part of life. Sad bur true.
    We have always raised Shepherds, Huskies, and rescued large breeds of the same kind.
    The last 2 sheps were 1/2 Timber Wolf and 1/2 Belgian, and !/2 Wolf and 1/2 Alsatian.
    I am glad to see you utilizing these guys, as they are likely to save “their person’s” life at one point.

    A question though: What do you do for the dog when it retires from active service?
    This year alone, we have had 2 German Police dogs come through our place, to be rehabilitated and adopted. Both adoptions have gont wonderful.

    Best wishes and prayers to all of you for K-9 handlers, and K-9s. Stay safe, and know you are loved and prayed for, always.

  6. Jill says:

    Referring to the last line where it says, “the ethics of sending dogs to war is a moot point, right?” I disagree. Why is it ethical to use other sentient beings for the human addiction to wars? In my opinion, war is not ethical and we shouldn’t be using animals to enable our unethical addiction. Period.

  7. Christy says:

    Speechless. Incredible animals! What sould the SEAL team be without them.

  8. Ismael says:

    I really like the part that says: U.S. Navy SEALs, bought four K9 Storm canine tactical assault suits @ $86,000.oo

    I am pretty sure at this price, some people are getting a nice comission fee!!!

  9. Connie says:

    First I would like to say thank you for your service to all soldiers, sailors, marines and air men. A special thank you for all the train dogs who help protect these special people. Animals have been used in world’s wars for as long as history has been written. Horses, mules, and dogs at one time or other has been in our military services. Horses and mules help start this great country of ours. I feel very honor to have been born in the greatest country in the world. Keep up the great work guys, gays and canines. GOD BLESS AMERICA

  10. Regine says:

    Belgian Malinois are the best dogs ever.! I can’t imagine to have another dog, though they scare people, they are so friendly, loving and…. protecting. He’s a real ‘bodyguard’.

    Congratulations with your nice job!

  11. maureen b. machirella says:

    Thank you for sharing the US Seal/Canine story, Dogs and humans have been compatible for thousands of
    years, as reflected in the Osama Bin Laden raid.. So happy these brilliantly trained dogs are companions of our
    military troops. All the best to their handlers – God Bless America, Maureen Mac (Grandmother of USMarine
    Ian Michael Rivera).

  12. Rocco says:

    Great article and photos are awesome! Love stories about dogs but this one is the best!

  13. Gary McDonald says:

    My brother-in-law, James “Patches” Watson, was one of the original Navy “Seals”. I don’t ever remember him
    talking about canine Seals. They may have started that program later on. He did talk about his special modified
    12 gauge shotgun nicknamed “Sweetheart”. I’m glad that dogs are now in our service and we have handlers
    dedicated to training them. God Bless both, and God Bless the United States of America.

  14. ELAINEBROADHEAD says:

    HUMANS HAVE CHOICES ANIMALS NO SO UNTIL ANIMAL RIGHTS ARE RECOGNIZED I SUPPOSE THAT WAR DOGS ARE TREATED BETTER THAN SOME CIVILIAN PETS AND I HOPE THAT THE ARMY HAS A RETIREMENT FUND FOR THOSE DOGS THAT ARE NO LONGER USEFUL

  15. Karen says:

    Thanks for the wonderful story of these brave canines and the Military men and women who serve our nation and bring the likes of Bin Laden down! How can we ever thank them all enough for their service. As the proud daughter of a retired navy man I salute you all and I thank the Lord for you! May our Lord Bless you ALL and I pray the dogs get some extra treats for all they do!!

  16. Myrtle Halligan says:

    I just want to give all the Seals a big hug… A special large one for Cairo !! We all could use a Cairo , dont you think ??? Thanks neighbors to the north of us, I am in Buffalo, for your help in “getting” Bin Laden !!

  17. Patti K says:

    What a great story. Also would like to refer folks to the save-a-vet organization. They help with dogs that are treated as extra equipment when their time in the service is done. Visit http://www.saveavet.org It is a great organization.

  18. ken littlefield says:

    Good article. Things have changed since I was a handler. I hope the military has at least tried to change their policy on retired dogs since I was with the 377th SPS K-9 (81250A for any who may remember). They were euthanized. Made me angry, but hey, we were all cannon fodder in that war. Oh well.

  19. Kirstin P says:

    Great photos! Regarding the issue of titanium teeth, I can confirm that working dogs do sometimes get metal caps for damaged teeth–not sure about titanium, nor that they are sharper than extra teeth. My dog had a compromised canine tooth, and her veterinary dentist explained to me that they would try to do a root canal if it was possible (it turned out that the tooth was too far gone and they just extracted it.) He explained to me that they sometimes will do a root canal and or cap on working dogs (including law enforcement dogs) if they need those teeth to perform their jobs. For example, if a tooth is cracked or decayed, they might just extract it on a companion animal, but if it’s a working dog, they will root canal or cap the tooth. I don’t recall what type of metal he said was used–but I think we joked about “bling.” I think the info about sharpened teeth is probably hyperbole. If you’ve ever been bitten by a large dog, you know their teeth are plenty sharp. And sharpened teeth would cause damage to the dog’s lips and tongue.

  20. Reita Gillette says:

    I love America and salute all our service men, women and dogs.

  21. Taylor in MV says:

    Just curious – why does a dog need night vision goggles with infra-red capabilities? Isn’t a dog’s night vision better than a human’s?

  22. Tomas says:

    I have had one of these little fellas for four years now. He and I live out in the sticks in the Ozarks. We have never flow or jumped together, however, he has been extremely successful in protecting myself and property from Bear, Panthers, Wid Boar, Coyotes, wild dogs, racoons, snakes, bugulars, meth-heads, and other forms of Arkansas Mountain wildlife.

    He also is the best mannered, tempered and conginial four-legged friend I have ever had in my nearly 60yrs.

    He is wonderful with grandkids and childern in general.

    However, he takes his job as Security Superrvisor very Serious.

    Alls he asks in return is food and friendship.

    I cannot reccommend a better, all aroud dog.

    I also can completely underestand their success in the field.

    I am prior service and prior law-enforcement.

    I would take this guy, Stevie McPhewarson (Steve) along on any mission.

    Course thats just me.

  23. Barb Tieman says:

    tHESE PICS WERE AWESOME, Having owned German Shepherds just about all of my adult life, I can understand the use of these magnificient animals being used in the present situation. Coming from a militarfamily, brother was a 30 year Marine, my father, husband and uncles also served, so I think these animals deserve something very special for their work, God Bless them and all of our servic e people. Gpd B;ess them all, thank you for putting these pictures on the net, beautiful…thank you

  24. JSNYC says:

    RE: Wonderful Dogs

    … but why in the world does the US disclose how it fights abroad, catches criminals, does it’s duty…when it is giving the enemy the blueprint.

    Q. Will any of you ask Congress to ban such disclosures and movies made about them that can be used by our enemies and terrorists?

  25. Doug P says:

    I agree with Sherri W. A customer, of mine, gave me a retired K-9 police dog, for an after hours watch dog at my store. When I first got “Bullet” he had been tied to a tree at my store by his owner and I had to throw food at him and slide a water bucket to him with a stick till he got use to me and then ,over time I could pet him. Over time he became a fixture behind the counter in the store. When I closed the store and put him on his chain at night, he became a watch dog again. I had the scare of my life one day when a customer came in with his 2 yr. old daughter and she looked around the end of the counter and saw “Bullet” asleep on the floor in the corner. She RAN over to him and jumped into the middle of his back WHILE HE WAS ASLEEP! He woke up and let her pull on his ears without even a growl. THEY CAN BE RETRAINED

  26. Anna a.k.a. Glitzygramma says:

    I own a german shephard/aussie cattle dog. She’s smaller than a normal size shephard, but let me say these dogs are not only heroes, they are damn fine companions. She is my nurse, companion, best friend and I wouldn’t hesitate to say she’d jump thru fire to save me. I would not trade her for any human either. Shepherd’s are loyal and protective, they love with all their hearts and soul. I’m not surprised the Military, and handi-capped organizations use them. Thanks for the inspiring story. I believe our Service men and women only deserve THE BEST! Cairo and team, We salute you. Hurrah!

  27. JAne Blythe says:

    Excellent article — the dogs have to really trust their SEAL companions, and the humans must
    really love those dogs. God bless them all. The dogs even look like they are enjoying jumping
    into the water from the planes!!! Glad our Government finally got the message about
    caring for these canines; when I worked in a VA Hospital years ago, it made me ill to learn that
    most of our military dogs were left in Vietnam. ( I believe some of the soldiers chose to shoot
    their beloved dogs there, rather than leave them to a cruel future with the VietCong – they
    had no choice. )

  28. SomeThoughts says:

    What amazing creatures! Thanks for this article!

    JSNYC: I have always wondered that too when I watch TV shows etc. on our military or they follow them along during battle.
    JILL: Sadly, no matter what, there will be war. Sorry but it’s true. Not that war is “right” and of course it would great not to have them, but that’s unrealistic, and as “wrong” as it can be to be involved, if we are going to be, we may as well do the best we can.
    ELAINEBROADHEAD: As far as animals having no choice and needing “rights”, not to start a hot topic (and I know unrelated to this article), but unborn babies don’t have a choice to be born or killed either. Totally not justifying either, but I think animals have more “rights” and “protection” than humans sometimes. Just hoping you are of the same opinion on that front and not just for animals.

    Not trying to start a big old “war” on here so don’t start getting nasty, just saying…..

  29. Dee says:

    The dogs that served in Vietnam were brought back home for the first couple of years. But that all stopped because of diseases. They contracted some that not only were there no cure for..the diseases didn’t even have a name. Same reason why many MIAs never made it back stateside.

    The US government lied, as they did about Agent Orange.

    Dee

  30. BillSaidIt says:

    SEMPER BARK

  31. Valerie says:

    I am so happy to see that we are finally giving credit to our 4 legged friends as well. I LOVE my dogs!!!

  32. Goldie says:

    Wow these dogs are so much braver than I would be. Kudo’s to all of them!!!!

  33. khaimianliu says:

    True to say since humans can go to wars why not dogs. The only difference: Humans get paid in their pocket books while dogs only get pats on their shoulders, i.e. if they don’t get killed first. Well, not to deny, (& not hard to see) I’m a total animal lover!!

  34. ed hroncich says:

    WAY TO GO DOGS.
    lONG lIVE.

  35. marcot says:

    What a marvelous article. I am so proud of the Seals and their canine partners.
    I have a German Shepherd and see these traits every day. What magnificant
    creatures these dogs are and how much they add to our lives! It is said and how true that
    their thinking is: I wont stop until the job is finished. Bin Laden found out.

  36. Jason says:

    Typical nationalist imbeciles who celebrate the concept of sending dogs into war. While I admire the respect people have for dogs who die in combat, the person (of course, ALWAYS anonymous–nobody wants to claim these types of writings) who wrote this is ignorant, uneducated, and plain stupid. A “moot point?” Do you know what “moot” means? Do you know what “ethics” means? As someone noted, dogs do not volunteer–humans do. As for Vietnam, WWII, and the draft, newsflash sport—that’s over. It’s irrelevant, as now soldiers choose to fight in combat, thus if they die, I do not ‘feel sorry for them.’ Nobody made them go to war. Dogs do not choose. They have an attachment to their handler and I love that there is a bond, and hopefully the soldier grieves, but I’d trade every soldier’s life for a single dog, as dogs are not rude, stupid, judgmental, and not likely to attack you without reason. A dog attacks for defense. A man attacks for ‘values.’ Next time, learn the meaning of words before including them. There is nothing “moot” about this.

  37. Chris says:

    Good on you Jason, I am with you.

    Some humans have no idea, that’;s if you can call them that!

  38. Janice says:

    You see? We have more than chocolates and beer in the Flemish part of Belgium. :-)

  39. glenda says:

    I love dogs! I hve two german shephers and they surprise me daily with how smart they are! It’s more the shepherd training the human at my house. Love your article and the pictures. Keep up the good work.

  40. Greg says:

    Do the dogs get hearing protection on the helicopters? Those helicopters are by no means quiet.

  41. Alice Simpson says:

    “As for the ethics of sending dogs to war, that’s pretty much a moot point, don’t you think? If it’s ethical to send humans into combat, then why not dogs?”

    Because humans have a choice. Animals don’t. And in today’s U.S. military, the humans are volunteers. The dogs are not. This is not a moot point. It’s a huge point, and I can’t believe Alan Parker, if he’s the one who asked these questions, is so dense that he does not understand this basic point. If he wanted to compare dogs with humans, he should have compared the dogs with 2-year-old humans. It will be ethical to send dogs into combat when it’s ethical to send young children into combat.

    It’s no more ethical to send dogs into combat than it was to send horses into combat. Millions of horses died in WWI, and millions more throughout the course of human history, and they didn’t have a choice, either. Horses and dogs do not choose to wage war. Humans do. The loss of innocent animal life is tragic given that the animals had no choice. Horses aren’t even predators like humans and dogs. They are prey animals, and yet they are so trusting of humans that they can be trained to charge into cannon fire to their deaths, betrayed by the humans who insist on waging war on each other.

  42. jerry vanderwaall says:

    Having served as a scoutdog hadler in Viet Nam (1967-1968), I realy love to see that the millitary are still using dogs in combat situations. Great story, and keep up the missions.

  43. anne in nh says:

    I have grown up with and trained with dobe’s, Danes, etc and I have trained and owned two German Shepherds. I now have a Terv… and I will NEVER own another breed! She is my PTSD Svc Dog, I trained her (35+ yrs experience, past teacher). You can never get a better partner. And in my opinion, not another as beautiful :) (not to mention their sense of humor!)

  44. Maria says:

    Cairo survive ? He stil alive ?
    Tks

  45. Mary Claire Burris says:

    I whole heartdly agree with Alice Simpson, as impressive as this story is to show the magnificence of this breed of dog there is an underlying sadness that we humans have (yet again) used an Animal (equal in value to a human in my book ) for our agenda. Dogs just like the horses (watch the movie war horse and if you have a heart and love animals it will break your heart) the dogs did not volunteer either and I am sure many die, yes saving their human counterparts (military would say that is their job) but the point is we don’t have the right to “use” animals for anything. I care about one thing from this story, just like the post just before mine:
    WHAT HAPPENED TO CAIRO, CAN ANYONE TELL US?? Thank you all for your thoughts. This breed does sound like the MOST AWESOME Breed of dog, but aren’t they all great? There is no coincidence that God spelled backwards is Dog….”I’m just sayin”

  46. Dr HArold Bergman says:

    I have been in the dental implant field with humans for over 40 years and lately become very interested in dental implants as thet relate to small animals. We have developed a titanium dental implant specifically for lost canine teeth in dogs and cats especially as it relates to working dogs. We would like to discuss with anyone associated with the military or police forces the possibility of discusing this further.

  47. alan.parker says:

    I believe Cairo is now retired from active duty, although there has been no official confirmation of that as far as I am aware. And I agree with pretty much everything you had to say, Mar Claire — including War Horse. I just couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I spend a good chunk of time on a horse farm and I just cannot imagine putting a horse through that horror. Then again, I can’t imagine putting a human being through it either.

  48. darren says:

    That gives Doggy Style a whole new meaning!

  49. PHILIP CHACKO says:

    vow, yes, BELGIAN SHEPHERD DOG is an awesome DOG AND they can out run many , and they are good FOR homes and farms and to READ THIS military STORY, vow, i am speechless , yes, THEY are faithful , devoted and are ALERT THAN humans .GOD bless USA

  50. MalanoisMe says:

    Anyone wondering what usually happens to these dogs after military Service: My cousin fostered a military Malenois for the first 6 months of her life while she became old enough to enter her formal training. After her service, my cousin was given first option to adopt her…..and also asked to take her back into their home during “down Time” between missions/service. These dogs are placed in loving homes after service….don’t worry about their welfare! They are treated better than many human military veterans after retirement from duty

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