By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
In today's photo we have Master-at-Arms Seaman Tyler Frizzard working with his MWD during an explosives detection training exercise in San Diego on February 25. It's a snapshot of the moment just after the handler has almost certainly told his dog -- "Seek here" -- pointing to a spot I would gauge to be nearly five feet off the ground.
When I first saw this photo it took me a minute to understand why it's such a great and important image. And it's far more than just the composition or how cool the dog looks stretched almost entirely vertical against the length of his broad-shouldered handler. You can also see in the dog's expression how focused he is on his handler's instruction--the dog's eyes seem to be locked in on the spot indicated by his partner, which also means that's the space from which he is drawing in scent -- potentially explosive odor. And, last but not least, look closely at the dog's feet -- there's a good bit of air between those paws and the ground. Which for anyone who still believes bomb sniffing dogs are at a deficit when pitted against other explosive detection machinery -- hand-held devices, remote controlled robots, and the like -- is an important thing to note. Dogs' agility and the swiftness with which they respond to commands cannot be overlooked and hasn't been matched.
In that vein, this photo becomes something of a modest but almost perfect piece of evidence to support the advantages dogs really do bring to the humans they support during IED patrols. So again, look closely.
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
Specialist Seaman Mark El-Rayes/U.S. Navy
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.