Did you know that when Seal Team 6 killed Osama Bin Laden, a military dog was part of the raid, working with his handler? Did you know that the military has more than 600 working military dogs in Afghanistan, protecting soldiers and civilians, sniffing out bombs and tracking insurgents?
In Afghanistan, military dogs have proved crucial, the best defense against improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are hidden randomly in the sand. As such, the dogs are also prime targets for the Taliban. They take on the most dangerous roles and develop intense bonds with their handlers.
Now, thanks to Animal Planet’s Glory Hounds, a two-hour special that premieres at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21, we get to see them in the field. The filmmakers gained unprecedented access, embedding three camera crews among military-dog teams in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan.
Getting there was no easy task. It took a year to get permission to film in a war zone, requiring discussions with four branches of the military. Then cameras crews went through specialized training to prepare them for their time in the field, which lasted six weeks.
Glory Hounds follows four dogs and their handlers:
- Lance Corporal Kent Ferrell and his German Shepherd, Zora, who sniffs out IEDs.
- Corporal Drew Nyman and his Belgian Malinois, Emily, who track insurgents deep in enemy territory.
- Staff Sergeant Len Anderson and his Belgian Malinois, Azza, who go on bomb-detecting runs while Staff Sgt. Anderson trains for his new role as the kennel master. On one run during filming, they come under fire — and the cameraman drops his camera to help save Staff Sgt. Anderson’s life.
- Lance Corporal Durward Shaw and his German Shepherd, Falko, an attack dog and an explosive-device tracker who works on Afghanistan’s notorious Highway One, one of the deadliest roads in the country.
In each case, filmmakers explore the intense bond between dog and handler, who put their lives into each other’s hands on a daily basis. It’s not all pretty. As the press release for the show notes, “In Glory Hounds, as in war, some dogs and handlers come home, some return forever changed, and some don’t come home at all.”
Animal Planet’s Glory Hounds premieres at 8 p.m. on Feb. 21. Be sure to set your DVRs.
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