CHARLIE AND THE DEMON DOG
Posting date: 9/17/07
Stationed in: Baghdad, Iraq
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Milblog url: airborneparainf82.blogspot.com
This is the story of two dogs.
First let me say that I am truly an animal lover, and the one thing I have missed more than anything being in the military as a single soldier, is the fact that while living in the barracks I was not able to have any pet, even something like a fish. Shoot, I don't even think I could have a live plant. As a kid, when I'd go out playing with my BB gun, I could never bring myself to shoot even a bird or a squirrel. The one time I almost did I lined it up in my sights and at the last second raised my rifle and fired just above it. How ironic that the first life I removed from this planet was that of another human being. Anyway...
We have a dog that stays at our combat outpost. A few months ago my old squad was out on patrol at night and this cute little black and white puppy began following them. They didn't pay much attention to it at first, but he kept following them and, well, he was just so damn cute they brought him back that night.
I was on guard shift and happened to be sitting on the desk inside when they brought the little guy in. He was pathetic looking. He couldn't have been more than a couple weeks old and looked like he could have died any minute. But he was so cute. They gave him a couple baths to clean him up and tried to get him to drink as much clean water as he could.
They had him wrapped in a blanket and left him at the desk I was at. He was throughly exhausted and his body was so hot. He was shivering while he slept, and honestly from the looks of it I didn't think he was going to live for more than a few days. Even after the bath he still had fleas, so one of the guys went and dipped him in JP8 (diesel fuel). We thought this was crazy, but it worked and he was flea free.
The only appropriate name for a dog for guys of Charlie Company was "Charlie". As the days went by Charlie began doing much better. He slowly began eating MREs and as time went on he began filling out. He became more active, and was even cuter than before. He was the center of attention and got everyone's affection. This is where Charlie and I truly began to bond, especially after the first time I did my best to comfort him and keep him warm. I really started getting attached to him, and I began thinking about him and his life after we leave. Nothing good...
After we rotated out of there the other platoons that would rotate in would take care of him just as well as we had, and by the time we were there again he had grown so much and was acting like a normal energetic puppy. We used to keep him inside and we'd take him out to pee and poop and up on the roof and to the guard towers to get him outside some.
Well one day our Battalion Command Sergeant Major (CSM) told us that Charlie was not to be allowed inside, and that we technically shouldn't even have him at all. So from that point forward he was an outdoor dog, living downstairs in the courtyard area of the compound. This did nothing to lessen the attention and affection he received from all of us, and gave him a lot of room to run around and play.
Time continued to pass and he grew and grew, learned to bark and bite and all the typical puppy stuff. Every time we'd come back to a new rotation he seemed so much bigger. One time we came back and he remembered me and came hauling ass towards me. I was shocked because I'd never seen him really run before, and it caught me off guard.
I knew I was totally attached to this dog now, and it was horrible thinking about having to leave him behind. The Iraqis don't have dogs as pets. There are dogs everywhere, but they are all wild. They roam the streets in packs and somehow manage to live, but are nothing like the "dog" that Americans are used to. Generation after generation they survive on their own, a natural existence in an unnatural world.
For this reason Iraqis view dogs as wild animals with diseases, and are either afraid of them or hate them. This included Charlie, even though he was obviously domesticated, and some Iraqis abused him. They would chase him and kick him. Anytime we'd catch them we'd yell at them and be on the verge of kicking their asses. This attitude of theirs is why, to this day, Charlie does not like Iraqis. It doesn't matter if it's Iraqi police, Army, or even our interpreters; he barks at them like crazy and acts all tough. I don't even bother trying to stop him anymore. The thing is, if we leave, his life is in their hands.
Charlie is still a puppy in many ways -- his puppy bark, his constant need to chew on things, his enless supply of puppy energy -- but he's grown a lot and he's really starting to look like a dog. He normally finds trash or water bottles to chew on, so one day I decided to pay an Iraqi to get me a bunch of cow bones, and now he has some real bones to chew on. Any chance I get I spend down with him, and despite what some may think, I let him lick me and crawl all over me. We've totally bonded and it's awesome.
I decided there has got to be a way to get him out of Iraq, and after reading a book about a Marine getting a dog to the States, called From Baghdad with Love, I learned about an organization called Military Mascots, which specializes in that. I want to secure Charlie a way to the land of the free, to give him an opportunity to enjoy his life to the fullest. I'd love to see his reaction to a giant field of green grass for the first time! So hopefully we can make this happen, and if you are interested in the project please go to Operation Bring Charlie Home.
OK, so now that I've told you about Charlie, let me tell you about the demon dog...
A few days ago I was to be on guard with the trucks outside. I like this spot, even though it's hot and it sucks being outside during the day, because I get to spend a lot of time with Charlie. Well the guy on shift before me told me there was some stray dog underneath one of the trucks. We joked around saying Charlie was finally going to get some ass, or that it was his long lost mom coming to find him, but once I saw her it was obvious that it wasn't. I don't know how or why this dog came in here, but there it was, chilling under a Humvee.
One of the squad leaders decided to have a guy move the truck, in hopes of getting the dog to run out and hopefully away. Well, the dog came out, but it went after the squad leader and tried to bite him. They kicked the dog and it scurried off somewhere else, but not away.
I was a little concerned because Charlie has not had any shots, and I'd hate for him to get bit by a diseased dog and get rabies. I wanted this dog to leave, but Charlie had no fear and was all up in the other dog's face, barking away like Mr. Toughguy. I have to give him credit for trying.
The dog ended up finding a spot in a lounge chair, and we were trying to get it to leave but it wasn't having it. I even went so far as to grab a metal sign frame and was pushing its head around. Nothing other than a quick snap at me for a reaction. We were in the process of getting some more people to help get the dog out when it hopped up and ran around the side of the building, from which there is no escape.
It was back behind these metal lockers, and I came up with what I thought at the time was a genius idea. I grabbed a broom and went up behind the lockers. I was going to hit the lockers really hard, scare the dog, and it would come running out and hopefully take off.
Charlie decided to come with me, unafraid, and continued his barking. Well, I hit the locker with the broom handle, and as expected it scared the dog and it came running out.
What I neglected to factor in was the possibility of what happened next. Since Charlie was basically blocking the way, the dog ran into him, stopping it from flying past. Once it stopped, it looked at me and immediately knew I was the cause of all its problems, and got this look on its face that only a true rabies-infested, ravenous demon dog could have.
It snarled its black dirty teeth, as white foam seeped out its mouth and it took all its hate and aggression out on me as it lunged at me. I was panicked at this point, no longer afraid about Charlie getting infected but afraid of getting bit myself. My first reaction was to quickly kick the dog in the head. This stopped the attack and for a second I thought the dog was done. But nope, it shook that off, looked at me again with even more hate, and lunged again. I took the broom handle and swung hard, making contact this time with the top of the dog's head.
Again, another unexpected reaction took place. After being belted in the head, the dog somehow latched onto the broom handle with its rabid mouth and began growling and snarling, as if possessed by Lucifer himself. After a couple quick tugs in an attempt to retrieve my self-defense stick, I said fuck it and began running -- somewhere, anywhere away from this devilish dog.
I took a quick glance back, and sure enough the dog was in pursuit. I quickened my pace, thinking it was only a matter or time until it caught up with me, and the first thing I saw to get away from it was to get on top of the hood of a nearby Humvee. I hopped up there and escaped, but the dog proceeded to go chill underneath the Humvee.
There were other people around, and they were laughing their asses off. But did the dog attack them?? NO!!
I was pissed at this point, and I told a guy to give me the radio and I called up that there were going to be a couple shots fired but for no one to be alarmed. This dog was going to die, and preferably by my hands, or should I say my gun. My squad leader immediately told me not to do it.
God damnit. Well, I won't now, but if this thing comes at me again you can sure as hell bet I'm going to pump this dog's body full of 5.56mm lead...
After a couple minutes of the dog not showing its face, I decided to get down to get said rifle. Wouldn't you know, the second my boots touched the ground Satan himself came lunging out again at me and I was forced to immediately climb a sandbag wall just a few feet away. Now I was feeling like an ass, and the thought of ending this dog's life became sweeter and sweeter to me. Well, I don't know why what happened next happened, but I'm guessing maybe the dog sensed trouble. On its own, it decided to run back out the entrance and all the way out into the street and just like that, this whole ordeal was over. Holy shit!
I figured that would be the last time I had to see this dog, but that night we ended up going out to do something, and as we turned onto this road just outside our outpost I heard a couple dogs barking away, like all dogs do to us in Iraq. Just as I'm passing them, one of them stops barking and just begins staring at me. I take a closer look, and sure as shit it's that damn dog, and I would swear it was deciding whether or not to come after me. I began waving my arms and pointing, signalling to the guys on my team. I don't know if they knew what I was getting at, but I knew, and that dog knew. I had my rifle ready and trained in case it decided to act on its thoughts, but fortunately it didn't.
Hopefully that will be the last time we ever come face to face.