By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
A young Army corporal and his detection dog named JaJo, a German Shepherd, suffered life-threatening injuries from an IED blast on Sept. 15 in Afghanistan where the team was on deployment. Family members who have been sending updates to the Military Working Dogs Facebook page (run anonymously by former and current handlers) said that the corporal suffered "severe blunt trauma and shrapnel injuries to his face, neck, and legs." JaJo, who also took a hit, ultimately had "half of his spleen removed and suffered two broken bones in his right-rear foot."
One of the flight medics who says he was on the team that picked up the wounded dog and handler after the blast also wrote in to MWD group about the incident:
"The credit to saving their lives goes to a small surgical team in Afghanistan. They did not have a vet at their location. The surgeon, who is an Army Colonel, attended to [the corporal] first. He later provided the lifesaving chest tube intervention to JaJo. It was his first chest tube performed on a dog. His years of experience and knowledge paid off to save these soldiers lives."
The handler was sent to the intensive care unit Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany and his dog to "a medical clinic nearby." A U.S. Army article that came out this week details the team's brief but harrowing stint in Germany following the incident notes that the soldier when conscious asked after JaJo.
"When his nurse told him JaJo (pronounced "zsa-zso") was being treated for injuries at a nearby military veterinary clinic, but was doing fine, she said a tear of relief rolled down his cheek."
Because JaJo, who is part of the Army's TEDD program that pairs detection dogs with infantry men (Tactical Explosive Detection Dog), was well enough, the head doctor of the Military Working Dog Ward at the Dog Center Europe, Captain Catherine Cook, arranged for the dog to look in on his handler. Though the soldier wasn't "initially aware of his visitor, JaJo licked his outstretched hand. ... Moments later, an eye opened as JaJo licked his hand again and the Soldier was alert enough give his friend a loving cuddle."
As of Wednesday, the FB group reports that both handler, who has continually shows signs of improvement, and JaJo are now back stateside and continuing their recuperation.
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Free Press in the Fall of 2013.
Photo Credit: There is no credit assigned from this photo. It originally appeared with this story.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.