By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Tanja, a Belgian Malanois, was up until her retirement from service this week, the longest serving military working dog in the Department of Defense. With a 12-year career behind her, she's deployed five times. They were impressive tours of duty that included uncovering IEDs and even stopping vehicles from making off with "extremely valuable" stolen classified documents.
Tanja, a patrol and detection dog with the 366th Security Forces Squadron was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. Her most recent handler, Tech. Sgt. Roseann Kelly, says that despite Tanja's age, the dog was still "kicking butt." During base patrol Tanja noticed a suspicious individual and alerted others to him. When they got close, Kelly says, "he decided to leave instead of deal with her."
Still, the tough exterior didn't mean she was above a little extra comfort. Tanja wasn't handling the cold weather like she used to so Kelly, who is adopting her partner, made sure the dog wore sweaters to keep warm even though the other handlers teased them. "I didn't care," Kelly insists, "because she liked it."
Rebecca Frankel's book about military working dogs will be published by Atria Books in August 2013.
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.