Army Veterinarian: Military Working Dog Dies in Afghanistan

Dinomt & MA1 Williams in Afghanistan.

Dinomt & MA1 Williams in Afghanistan.

One of the bomb-sniffing military dogs under my care was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan last year. I’ve been waiting for the right time to share his story, and that time has finally arrived.

The New York Times At War Blog just published my article about Dinomt’s death. I hope you’ll check it out and share it around.

Many of you have asked for more details about what I actually do as an Army veterinarian. This clinical care for military working dogs is a big part of my job.

Although my role in this story was limited to the pre-deployment exam where I cleared Dinomt (pronounced Dynamite) and his handler to head to Afghanistan, other veterinarians in the combat zone performed the necropsy and treat combat injuries on a daily basis.

I provide medical and surgical care for about twenty military working dogs that live on the two military installations I’m responsible for. From these home stations, dogs like Dinomt frequently deploy with their handlers to support missions around the world.

I don’t take my involvement in these dogs’ lives lightly. They are making a big sacrifice, one that they don’t volunteer for. It’s true that they genuinely seem to love their work, but when they are wounded or killed it is never easy.

You can read the first few paragraphs of my article here.

MA1 Williams & Dinomt training in Arizona.

MA1 Williams & Dinomt training in Arizona.

Dog of War Pays Ultimate Sacrifice for Soldier

The silence was what surprised him most. As the earth erupted in a puff of smoke just three feet away, Master-at-Arms First Class Leroy Williams Jr. found himself flying backward in an angry cloud of dirt and debris.

There was no roaring boom, no fiery explosion, he recalled later, just a detached curiosity about the novel situation in which he suddenly found himself.

Petty Officer Williams, a Navy dog handler, hit the ground with a smack 20 feet back. He popped up and started running forward again, his mind beginning to clear even as an intense ringing started up in his ears.

Dinomt & his handler in Afghanistan.

Dinomt & his handler in Afghanistan.

As he ran, he could think only about trying to find his dog, Dinomt, and the explosive ordnance disposal technician that had been walking with them. He saw the technician moving his head and saying something he could not hear. It looked like both his legs were missing in the pile of debris around the site of the blast.

Then Petty Officer Williams realized that he was still connected to Dinomt. The retractable leash was clipped to the vest over the handler’s body armor, and he could feel by the weight at the other end that it was also still attached to the dog.

He followed the leash to where the 90-pound dog’s body lay twitching in the dirt, but there was something wrong with the picture.

Dinomt’s head and neck had been blown off.

I heard about Dinomt’s death that same evening when one of my Army veterinary technicians called me with the news. I thought back to the predeployment exam I had done six months earlier on Dinomt, a handsome, intelligent 3-year-old black German shepherd in the prime of his life…

That’s the end of the excerpt. You can head over to the New York Times to read the rest of the article.

So what do you think? Would you be willing to participate in this work, even if it means playing a role in situations like this?

Make sure you check out this dedicated page to find everything I’ve written about being an Army veterinarian all in one place.

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10 Responses to “Army Veterinarian: Military Working Dog Dies in Afghanistan”

  1. Kathryn Elliott Stegall August 1, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Congratulations, Elliott! Fine article in the NYT.

  2. daninicole14 August 2, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    A very well written and very touching article! I hope everyone gets the chance to read it so that their sacrifices are not forgotten!

    • Elliott August 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      Thanks for reading and letting me know, Dani.

  3. Nathan Fawkes August 8, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    An excellent article. While many Americans are obsessed with the trivial, this reminds us of the vital and dangerous work performed every day on our behalf by our valiant warriors – both human and canine. Keep up the good work Elliott. God speed MA1 Williams. RIP Dinomt.

    • Elliott August 8, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Nathan. I think you hit on a really important point here. I hope I can keep sharing these stories so that others have a better understanding of the sacrifices being made on our behalf.

  4. Peter Wood August 8, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    Absolutely heartbreaking.

  5. Rozenn LN August 12, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    Very nice article !
    So much humility and devotion is a beautiful lesson of humanity 🙂

    • Elliott August 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      Thanks for reading it, Rozenn! I agree, it’s an inspiring story.

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