The Best Defense

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: 2011, Year of the War Dog

By Rebecca Frankel

Chief Canine Correspondent

Mr. T. E. Ricks has asked me to select my top three favorite War Dog posts of 2011. A daunting task, but who says no to Tom? Not I.

This was without a doubt, the year of the War Dog. The sensation wrapped around Cairo, the  canine reportedly on the fateful mission that took down Osama bin Laden, cemented -- well, more like exploded -- the interest we knew was there all along. Our own War Dog photo essay received over 8.2 million page views in May alone, making it the most clicked on piece in Foreign Policy history. (Pardon the pre-holiday horn tooting.)

And while the Osama bin Laden dog is inarguably the most exciting and momentous tale to come out of this year's MWD highlight reel, it's not my favorite. Not even close. The stories I find are the most compelling are the ones that illustrate how powerful the dog-handler bond can be, what it's capable of, and how it makes these teams an unsurpassed force in a combat zone where, unfortunately, we still need them the most -- leading in front, clearing roads for IEDs.

While it was hard to chose, these are also the posts that prompted the most visceral responses and the most touching comments, both on the blog comment feed and off. These stories dig into the heart of why we respond to these dogs in the first place. Here they are in no particular order. Not surprisingly, my favorites posts this year were some of yours.

Some end of the year news: This note feels especially fitting as we close in on the two-year anniversary of this Friday feature: A War Dogs book is coming. I'm currently on leave from my desk at FP and working on war dogs full-time. I hope to bring many dispatches and new stories as I work and travel over the next few months. Many thanks to all of you who've been following along, sharing your comments, your suggestions, and of course your dogs. Happy holidays.

In the picture above, Lance Cpl. Tom Welstand, a native of Berystedmunds, England, and a military working dog handler with 103 Military Dog Squadron, shares a moment with his search dog, Steegan, during Operation Zamrod Olai, June 25, in northern Nad'Ali district, Helmand province.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ross

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