Does Military Working Dog L416 know that we saved his life? Szory is his name, MWD L416
by military records. He is a German Shepherd...the long-haired, East German variety. Entering
the Military Working Dog program last year, Szory was identified as a quick study and very
smart. The notes we received from the MWD handlers / trainers who worked with Szory said he
was going “to be an exceptional asset to his unit”...wherever that was supposed to be.
Everything was looking good for Szory until he underwent the canine version of a fitness test.
It was no big deal until he started coughing up blood...and it would not stop. The diagnosis: Hemophilia… In a dog??
Obviously, that condition immediately eliminated Szory from further training and deployment. If
you are going to a place where sharp objects, let alone bullets and bombs, are common place,
you cannot have that condition. Wounds, cuts, scrapes, and injuries are common place in a war zone, but for Szory, even the smallest cut or injury could be fatal.
“A NO-GO?” “Non-deployable?” “Medically retired MWD?” Whatever you want to call it, Szory’s destiny was now established. He barely survived the surgery to neuter him, so he could be
placed for adoption. Waiting for adoption is where we found him...on what could have been canine death row. A special needs dog can be hard to place.
I think he knows we saved his life. Actually, it was my wife who saved his life since I have been deployed for the last year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Baghdad) and then Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). My wife’s name is Nancy, and she is the one who made the trip
to Lackland AFB in May 2008, to see if L416’s temperament was something we could live with.
It was…and for the last four months of my deployment, I saw pictures of Szory, listened to his
bark over the phone and heard of his many adventures in his new-found “recreational area”: our backyard.
My name is John, and I wrote this from Kandahar, Afghanistan. I met Szory for the first time when
I returned home in October 2008. I was curious to see if He would let me near my wife when I got home. There could have been trouble, but he had been smelling a t-shirt of mine as an initial “long-distance” introduction. I had to laugh at the thought of being cornered in my own home as Szory ‘defended the Mrs.’!!
Anyway….Nancy and I have always entertained the thought of adopting an MWD. Seeing the dogs
at work in Baghdad gave me an added sense of security as I watched them day after day search vehicles for explosives. I read more and more stories of their heroics and how they saved the lives
of their handlers and the units they support. Nancy and I decided that we could make a difference
…at least in the life of one dog. Additionally, my deployment for another six-month tour brought
our thoughts into focus and made us see the benefits of a working dog around the house. As a companion to Nancy and as a deterrent to someone who thought they would enter our home, it seemed the timing was just right to begin the adoption process. The Lackland MWD adoption
web-site was where Nancy went to begin looking and there he was: L416 up for adoption, but if
he was not adopted soon he would have been put down. Yes? No? He is just a dog...
From South Carolina, the travel to and from Lackland AFB was expensive enough. Was the
trip really worth it for a dog with a life-threatening condition? Darn right the trip was worth it!
Szory’s presence at home with Nancy was more than worth the cost of the trip. You would never know by looking at him that he even has a medical problem. He is just as much into dog mischief
as the “best of ‘em”, and he loves to chase his Kong and go for a walk. Sure, there are some
special needs we have to arrange for in the event of an injury, but the peace-of-mind she has whenever I am away, because of Szory’s presence is priceless. I could hardly wait to walk him around the neighborhood and tell his story! Even though Szory will never have a 'war history',
this former soldier is already a Hero to us!