"S" was purchased on contract from a company to be in the group of 7 of the first “test dogs”. Coming in as a 3 year old, he was trained to work off leash, patrolling 100 yards in front of troops and guided by whistle, hand, and arm signals from his handler. Upon detection of explosives, he was taught to lay down to signal the handler, thus preventing the patrol from going into harm’s way. "S" excelled at his job, and was quickly known as best in his class, and - used as a demo dog - he sold the Marine Corp. on the IDD program!
In 2007, IDD L515 (as "S" had been known) left for his first deployment. Captain "S," an Operations Officer for the battalion that deployed, had only been in country for one week when his Humvee ran over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and he was instantly killed. Due to the Captain's loyalty and love for the IDD dogs, L515 was renamed in his honor.
"S" went on to serve the rest of that deployment, plus 2 others in Iraq and 1 in Afghanistan before retiring in 2012 at the age of 9 with arthritis, which prevented his continued work.
The story is continued by the woman who wrote to me: "My husband was an infantry member in the Marine Corps and had the honor of being chosen to be an IDD handler for his last deployment in 2009. He has always had a love for dogs, and he really enjoyed the job. He was matched up with "S" and they grew a bond that I did not even know was possible between an animal and a human. "S" had many “finds” during his deployment with my husband, including 3 that would have certainly resulted in serious injury to, or the death of my husband and his fellow Marines. My children and I are forever is his debt for keeping their daddy safe.
After his deployment, "S" was taken back by the company contracted to train him and my husband and I both received honorable discharges from the Marine Corps. Ready to come back “home” to our children after 3 Infantry Deployments in 4 years, my husband - disabled by degenerative joint disease, hearing loss, a back injury, PTSD, and TBI - was sinking into a deep depression. He spent all of his time in his basement “man cave” cleaning his guns…that was his life…no playing with the kids, no family time, no personal time…just him and the basement. Knowing of his bond with "S", I put in an application to adopt "S" when I was notified of the dog's retirement. Without telling my husband, I planned a road trip with my mother and daughter and we made the 32 hour round trip out of state to pick up "S," Now this hero dog was ours! He laid his head in my 4 year old daughter’s lap for the entire ride home, and I just knew it was meant to be!
Once home, my husband (who thought we were at a rabbit show) couldn't believe his eyes! "S" ran straight to him and jumped into his lap and laid his head on my husband’s shoulder. For the first time in the 13 years I had known my husband, I saw a tear run down his cheek. It was amazing! Since then, "S" has once again become a hero, pulling my husband out of the depression that no amount of medication was helping. I am not sure who loves whom more! "S" follows him from room to room. If my husband goes to the bathroom, "S" lays outside the door and waits for him. They are never without each other, My husband has also done a complete 180 turnaround since we brought "S" home. The kids have a dad, I have a husband, and we have a normal family life for the first time in years. "S" is my miracle dog - he brought my husband back from Iraq, then back from the depths of his own mind!
We were contacted last year by the company we from whom we got "S,", and then discovered his past and learned how he got his name. The widow of the Captain and his 8 and 11 year old children were looking for more information about the dog named after their father and husband. When I called Mrs. "S", she told me that she had been in such a haze after learning of the Humvee attack that only now, 5 years later, she remembered being told that a military working dog was named after her husband. The family wanted to know if they could have "S", and my heart sank.
After explaining what "S" has done for our family the Captain's wife told me she wouldn’t dream of taking the dog from my husband, That kind woman and her children were interested in meeting us as well as "S" and I thought it would be amazing to present them with a painting of "S" as a remembrance of their father and her husband.
"S" is 10 years old now. He gets monthly shots for arthritis, monthly shots for allergies, is on a prescription dog food, has tendonitis in his front left leg, and a few months ago had a 7 hour surgery that removed his spleen and a 13 lb tumor - luckily not cancerous. The vets didn’t think he would make it through the surgery, but he is still here, happy as ever, getting slower, but still anxious for someone to throw the ball so he can gently amble after it, then walk it back to repeat the process. We know that we probably don’t have more than a couple of years at most left with our buddy, so we are savoring each day, and I am trying not to think about what the future will be like without "S" there to bring the “normality” that he has given us. It is hard to put into words how much he means to me, our children, and most of all, to my husband.