By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
This time last year, Sgt. Alyssa Jackson, Capt. Katie Barry, and Sgt. William Vidal, who made up the entire veterinary team at Bagram AFB, were celebrating the holiday season in Afghanistan. (They are the exceptional team-of-three who organized the war-dog run in Bagram earlier this year.) And while the three have since left their post in Afghanistan and are now serving on other Air Force bases around the world, they have fond memories of their last Christmas spent with the MWDs and their handlers stationed at Bagram.
Jackson said the dogs especially were remembered during the holiday season. "Many people would send us care packages for the dogs. The packages would have kongs, treats, and all kinds of toys," he said. "It was great that our Military Working Dogs are not forgotten during the holidays."
Above, MWD Paty sports reindeer antlers in the small veterinary office on base. Barry writes that when this photo was taken Paty was suffering from "pretty severe PTSD so she was on her way home. She's been dispo'd and I think her handler adopted her."
This photo at left comes straight from Zombalay, Afghanistan, taken just a few days ago. Handler SSG Donald Miller posed for this postcard with his Patrol Explosive Detector Dog, Ody. The pair has been in country since September.
The dog pictured below with his handler is Carlos, another Air Force dog stationed at Bagram last December. Sadly, the vet team told me that he died not long after returning to the States. While a sweet dog, Carlos could be a little prickly while getting a check up, which is why he's wearing a muzzle -- a common precautionary measure vets handling MWDs take during even the most routine exams.
Also from the Bagram vet office we have MWD Ajax. Jackson had just opened a box her aunt had sent when the dog and his handler came in for an appointment. "Ajax was pretty nervous around us," Jackson writes. But he "sure did put on a huge puppy smile when we put his Santa hat on."
Speaking of Santa... If you are interested in sending a care package over to dog teams or helping provide any needed items to dog teams deployed in Afghanistan (or elsewhere) this holiday season, check out the U.S. War Dog Association run by the incomparable Ron Aiello, a former Vietnam dog handler, who's been sending care packages out to dog teams around the world for the last ten years.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.