Good Dogs. Bad Humans. (Alternate Title: No, Virginia, The US Military Is Not A Flawless Band Of Heroes)

This story, tweeted out by the redoubtable Twitterer Angry Staff Officer (@pptsapper), breaks my heart:

In a report released on Friday, the Inspector General said that canine heroes, which saved the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan while working with brigade combat teams to sniff out roadside bombs, were mistreated by the Army after they returned to the United States…

The report said that some dogs were left in kennels for up to 11 months, beyond a deadline for giving them away for adoption or re-using them in the military or other government agencies. It said they were mistreated through lack of care and attention, and others may have been put down.

To its belated credit, as a spokesman told Reuters, “The Army concurs with the DoDIG (Defense Inspector General) report” and is implementing its recommendations.

But damn.

I mean, damn.

I know this isn’t really surprising, given the wretched history of US abandonment of local colleagues in too many conflicts.  Those people’s lives should have counted for much more than they did, we owed them more, and the costs they’ve born outweigh, to me at least, the mistreatment of animals.

But that our armed forces, acting in our names, may have committed greater sins doesn’t make lesser ones any better.

And in some ways, this story is worse, or grates more than larger tales of betrayal, because doing the right thing would have been easy.  Treating these dogs well would have made their lives better, while making the lives of their human comforters richer as well.

F**k it.

People don’t always suck, but some days, it sure seems like the default condition.

Miserably open thread.

Image: Passarotti, Portrait of a gentleman with two dogsbefore 1592.

72 replies
  1. 1
    TenguPhule says:

    Treating these dogs right would have made their lives better, while making the lives of their human comforters richer as well.

    Yep.

    Firing Squads seem an appropriate punishment for this kind of
    cruel shit.

  2. 2
    condorcet runner-up says:

    It said they were mistreated through lack of care and attention, and others may have been put down.

    godsdammit.

    ugh.

  3. 3
    debbie says:

    Unnecessarily cruel.

  4. 4
    TenguPhule says:

    @debbie:

    Unnecessarily cruel.

    Grammer pedant, that implies that there would be a level of necessary cruelty.

  5. 5
    ruemara says:

    Considering how undocumented service members are being screwed, I can’t say I’m that surprised.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    @TenguPhule: Too quick.

  7. 7
    BCHS Class of 1980 says:

    The Blogfather’s take should be searing!

  8. 8
    Adrift says:

    We traverse the globe destroying lives, families, countries and in the end don’t even care for our own vets. Is it any surprise that this is how service dogs end up? I really, truly am ready to just give up. Maybe I already have.

  9. 9
    Schlemazel says:

    Humans are not treated well by the military why should dogs expect better?

    Really though, there has to be a hell for some people, even if they are just caged in it for 11 months straight.

  10. 10
    MomSense says:

    This is infuriating. Soooooo many people would have adopted these dogs immediately and given them love and care for the rest of their lives.

  11. 11
    raven says:

    None of the service dogs in Vietnam came home. Draw your own conclusions.

  12. 12
    Adrift says:

    @raven:

    We’ve temporarily limited some of your account features again.

    My conclusion is WTF is wrong with people. In particular those in the USA.

  13. 13
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    Why do you hate the Troops, Tom?

    /wingnut

  14. 14
    WereBear says:

    Here’s the thing that gets me so upset about animal cruelty:

    It is so easy to do it right.

    This isn’t getting them an apartment and food stamps and getting them into classes for their GED. It’s just food and water and attention and telling someone to get them into good homes. It’s the flipping military! You tell someone what to do and they do it!

    Part of the corruption that seeps into the mechanism and just wears down any good-intentioned people who try to do the right thing.

  15. 15
    trollhattan says:

    That absolutely stinks.

    Our “greatest generation” cajoled families to donate their dogs to the government to help fight WWII, and many did. The outcomes tended to be not good but the use that utterly devastated me was training them to go into caves, then strapping time bombs to them during the Pacific campaign to blow up Japanese soldiers.

  16. 16
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @trollhattan:
    Tbf, weren’t the people in positions of authority who made those decisions of older generations than the “greatest generation”; as in people who were born in the 19th century? But that really is horrible, using animals like that.

  17. 17
    Adrift says:

    @Adrift:

    We’ve temporarily limited some of your account features again.

    I truly have no idea where that came from. Gremlins. or Twitter. Take your pick.

  18. 18
    Mary G says:

    I saw another story where dogs supplied by a private contractor were euthanized to save the money it would cost shipping them home. Pure evil.

  19. 19
    Schlemazel says:

    @trollhattan:
    Not the same thing but very similar.
    B.F.Skinner trained pigeons to aim bombs from a nose cone by pecking at buttons that would have adjusted flaps on the real bomb. It worked but by the time he had them trained the Military didn’t feel they needed them.

    The US dropped bombs full of live bats over Tokyo. The cases opened in flight to allow the bats to escape. Each bat had a timed incendiary device strapped to it. The bats did as expected & sheltered under the eaves of houses. Houses made of paper and bamboo. Those worked as expected.

    The military has one job, they do it well any everyone and everything pays a price.

  20. 20
    WaterGirl says:

    @Mary G: My blood was already boiling before I read your comment.

  21. 21
    Jager says:

    I read that the first US KIA in the Tet Offensive was an Air Force service dog. The dog alerted his handler when he scented a sapper, the handler was wounded, off leash the dog attacked the sapper and was killed. The dog’s handler survived. I’d have to look up the details.

  22. 22
    WereBear says:

    And these dogs are not volunteers. All they are working from is loyalty.

    It’s the betrayal part that hurts so much.

  23. 23
    chris says:

    I guess you can’t just give those wardogs to anybody who comes along but it’s beyond disgusting to treat them like that. Here’s hoping that heads will roll.

  24. 24
    Kristine says:

    I’ve been avoiding this story because I knew deep down what it would say and my tendency toward misanthropy really doesn’t need the push.

  25. 25
    No Drought No More says:

    The silver lining is the fact the dogs suicide rate, even among surviving dogs that were later maltreated, is still considerably lower than the corresponding rate among two legged GI’s.

  26. 26
    TriassicSands says:

    I’ve long been unhappy about the use of animals in dangerous situations. It’s night like they know the risks or are volunteering (as WereBear rightly points out above). Some are killed and others badly injured. The least humans could do would be to give all of them the best care possible during and after their “service.” However, we’re now a country in which tens of millions of people have little or no regard for their fellow human beings, so mistreatment or neglect of dogs shouldn’t be a surprise.

    Should dogs (or dolphins, or any animal) really be used to help prevent human casualties in wars that are entirely the fault of humans? If we valued the lives of other critters more, maybe we’d start to value the lives of human beings more. But then there is religion…

  27. 27
    Jager says:

    @chris: These dogs are so well trained they need a well trained owner.

  28. 28
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Adrift:

    I was wondering!

    As for the so-called humans who could have made those dogs’ lives better, but didn’t: I’m too angry and upset to trust myself to write anything, so I’m going to read for a while (BJ-er JoyceH’s new novel). Regency England strikes me as infinitely preferable to Trumpian America right now.

  29. 29

    Not everyone can be like Yudihistira, who declines to go to heaven if the dog that has faithfully followed him along the journey can’t go too.

  30. 30
    WereBear says:

    @Jager: So what? If the person I am looking for is “one in a million” I can have my pick of 323 of them as of 2016. There’s more now.

    No kill shelters all over the continent are proving that they can get pets in homes. I’ve seen three legged dogs and cats, 20 year old cats who survived a hoarding situation, blind pets, deaf pets, pets with epilepsy getting placed with a person with epilepsy…

    The right person is out there. And in the military, you just assign someone a task. There’s no persuasion required.

    No excuses. This really isn’t rocket science.

  31. 31
    TenguPhule says:

    @Baud:

    Too quick.

    We’ll make up for it in volume.

  32. 32
    TenguPhule says:

    @WereBear:

    And in the military, you just assign someone a task. There’s no persuasion required.

    Could we trust a 2nd LT to perform this task without fucking it up?

  33. 33
    TenguPhule says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    Regency England strikes me as infinitely preferable to Trumpian America right now.

    Hell, Victorian England doesn’t look that bad from here.

  34. 34
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: One of the numerous problems with using contractors to perform actual military functions because it will supposedly save money and allow the actual costs to be kept off the books.

  35. 35
    Jager says:

    @WereBear: I’m not saying they couldn’t be placed, hell with my experience with Sch II GSDs, I could handle one. But not everyone can. They have had a lot of “pet” trained out of them. They will handle you if you don’t handle them. Somebody would have to be willing to do the work the dog requires.

  36. 36
    WereBear says:

    @Adam L Silverman: it is nothing but problems. I never fell for the privitization bullshit.o

  37. 37
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    and allow the actual costs to be kept off the books.

    Funny how that never actually happens in real life.

  38. 38
    WereBear says:

    @TenguPhule: It sure got fucked up this way.

  39. 39
    Adam L Silverman says:

    This is, unfortunately, not surprising. The conventional Army (as in not US Army Special Operations Forces: the Green Berets/Special Forces, Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations, and Special Operations Aviation), because it is so large basically embodies the line from the Army song. It “goes rolling along” over everyone and everything as needed. Soldiers, civilians, contractors, working animals, host country national partners. All of it is grist to be ground as needed.

    And I say that as someone who has been working for and/or with the US Army for over a decade and who finds much within it to be exemplary. But things like this do not surprise me in the least. They do make me angry.

  40. 40
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    They do make me angry.

    And the only people who like you when you are angry are on this blog.

  41. 41
    TenguPhule says:

    @WereBear:

    It sure got fucked up this way.

    Pretty sure that a lot of 2nd Lts were involved in this.

  42. 42
    Mary G says:

    @Jager: They wasted the best possible adopters. From the story Tom linked:

    In some cases, the report said, soldiers who wanted to adopt dogs with which they had worked were not told they had the right to do so. An investigation was started after soldiers who had handled the war dogs complained about their fate.

  43. 43
    WereBear says:

    @Jager: I agree. I’m saying a) such people exist and would love to have such a dog and b) outlets and procedures exist to match the two up.

    Thr first thing I thought of was some of them would be suitable for those vet therapy dogs. Even if the vet and the dog were retrained together, that’s therapy and doing more good in the world.

    And I am heartily sick of “money” being used as an excuse for cruelty, when the rich just steal it. There are better uses for it, and beings who deserve it more.

  44. 44
    chris says:

    @Jager: Yes, and they’re trained to be protective so the owner has to be aware of the dog’s potential, a miscue could be tragic.

  45. 45
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    1It “goes rolling along” over everyone and everything as needed. Soldiers, civilians, contractors, working animals, host country national partners. All of it is grist to be ground as needed

    Unfortunately, that sounds like a lot of sufficiently large organizations. What a waste.

  46. 46
    Schlemazel says:

    @schrodingers_cat:
    There is a famous Twilight Zone episode where a simple mountain man finds himself in that situation & refuses to go into heaven. The dog is fearful of the place. Turns out it was Hell & the Devil was trying to trick him

  47. 47
    Baud says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    I’m like Yudihistira, 

  48. 48
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WereBear: @TenguPhule:

    And in the military, you just assign someone a task. There’s no persuasion required.

    This is actually the problem in the conventional Army. In this case a job needed doing: taking care of these service dogs. They pulled up a duty roster, cross referenced it against the rank required to do the job, and then assigned someone. In the cases where the Soldier assigned to the job was a dog lover or took the job seriously and looked out for the animals’ welfare, then there were few to no problems. In the cases where the Soldier wasn’t a dog/animal lover or was just making time, then it didn’t. The conventional Army assumes, as a basic operating concept, that a colonel is a colonel is a colonel and a 1st sergeant is a 1st sergeant is a 1st sergeant and a chief warrant officer 2 is a chief warrant officer 2 is a chief warrant officer 2. For assignments that do not require a specific branch or military occupational specialty/sub-specialty, if the rank requirement calls for a colonel, any colonel will do. It doesn’t matter if that colonel is completely unsuited for the assignment. And the same for any other rank. Including general officers. I’ve know general officers that were great in one assignment and horrible in others. To a great degree the conventional Army treats its personnel as interchangeable parts. And it often shows. And it leads to things like this happening.

  49. 49
    ixnay says:

    @WereBear: This.

  50. 50
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WereBear: For certain things it makes perfect sense. For most things it doesn’t. It is simply an excuse for not having either enough uniformed personnel or civil servants because that would be big government. Same thing on the Intel side.

  51. 51
    chris says:

    @WereBear: I agree and don’t understand why it wasn’t done. I read a story about a dog that was wounded by a landmine in Afghanistan. He was airlifted to hospital where surgeons stabilised him enough to fly him to Germany for treatment. dog lived and got a medal. So, really, WTF Pentagon?

  52. 52
    efgoldman says:

    @TenguPhule:

    the only people who like you when you are angry are on this blog.

    I think Hulk probably finds Adam a kindred spirit.

  53. 53
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: It is what it is.

    Sadly frustrated might be a better phrase for this. If someone had given me the CONOP for this, I’m pretty sure I would have been able to ask the question “what happens when we just fill the billets with people that know nothing about dogs or aren’t dog/animal lovers?” And I’m even more sure the briefer would have looked at me like I had three heads.

    The Army, and the US military really do a lot of great things. And they are, unfortunately, the last functioning social/socio-economic escalator left in US society. But one of the things they do not do well, despite making it a priority to encourage it and teach it and teach about it and its importance, is actually produce creative thinkers. And despite what anyone says in a briefing, the conventional Army most certainly is not a learning organization.

  54. 54
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: My guess is that if we could pull the assignment paperwork, we’d find that the Soldiers in charge of these kennels who did good jobs, took good care of the dogs, made sure they got adopted appropriately, were Soldiers who had been handlers. Or, at least, dog/animal lovers. Those who didn’t were most likely not handlers. My guess is whoever was doing the G1 (personnel office) assignments on this never even bothered to consider this issue. That having a handler in these assignments made the most sense. Because these dogs weren’t in country or going to be going back. So why waste a handler that could be doing actual handler duties.

  55. 55
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Mistakes were made…

  56. 56
    efgoldman says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    My guess is whoever was doing the G1 (personnel office) assignments on this never even bothered to consider this issue.

    By that logic, any random cook or clerk can get behind the wheel of a tank.

  57. 57
    RSA says:

    Speaking of dogs…

    In May of last year, the Tampa Bay Times asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide the three most recent inspections of 15 puppy breeders who supply Tampa-area stores. It took nine months, but the reply arrived last week: 54 pages of total blackout… These records used to be available on the USDA website for anyone to search and find. But in the first month after President Donald Trump took office, the information was scrubbed entirely from the website.

  58. 58
    WereBear says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Ah, true, I had not reckoned with the “assumed competence” part.

    In Rescue, there’s a lot of passionate volunteers :)

  59. 59
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @efgoldman: I’m the Hulk’s spirit animal.

  60. 60
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @efgoldman: There are very few cooks left in the Army. Almost all those positions are now contract. As for clerks, we do have a lot of those.

    But armor positions require a primary or secondary MOS in the Armor Branch, combined with specialized training. So this example wouldn’t fit with what I’m explaining.

  61. 61
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WereBear: Both of my current dogs, in addition to them lying here next to me snoring (and you’d think they could synchronize it, is that too much to ask?), are from the same rescue organization in central Pennsylvania: Furry Friends Rescue. Great organization. I had the same foster family for both – lovely people. But there are definitely some overly zealous volunteers too.

  62. 62
    efgoldman says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    But armor positions require a primary or secondary MOS in the Armor Branch

    Of course they do. Exaggerating for effect.
    In MY day, the Army had our OWN goddamned cooks… and mechanics…. and the clubs were run by alcoholic captains who would never get promoted to major or granted a command, but weren’t troublemakers and didn’t get RIF’d out….
    And that’s the way it was, and we liked it.

  63. 63
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @efgoldman: It is what it is.

  64. 64
    WereBear says:

    @Adam L Silverman: But there are definitely some overly zealous volunteers too.

    Indeed. There are secret hoarders who think no one else is good enough to adopt, the overly hopeful who keep struggling with a damaged animal, doing them no good, etc. as always, joining sonething to get more than you give is always with us.

  65. 65
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WereBear: I bumped into a couple that seemed to be far, far too invested in ensuring that the animal, in my case dogs, would have a perfect home. Where they had also created a concept of perfect home that didn’t exist. It wasn’t something that was an impediment, but it was, occasionally, annoying. An email to the foster family and/or the woman who started and ran the rescue always solved the problem.

  66. 66

    @Baud: I expected nothing less Mahatma Baud. He does have a flaw though, he is a gambler.

  67. 67
    WereBear says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Glad to hear the problems were solved, and that you and your dogs found each other :)

  68. 68
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WereBear: There are some religions where the definition of heaven is to be incarnated as a dog and adopted by me.

  69. 69
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Name one.

  70. 70
    Aleta says:

    Post traumatic stress affects lots of military dogs at war. Even soldiers or special forces people who care about a dog don’t always control their time and schedule enough to follow up on what happens to them.

    I hope we learn more about this story. The military like to publish how much the dogs are worth to them in $s (10s of thousands to train) and for obvious reasons it makes an effort to publish positive dog stories. But since the animals are primarily tools to do a job there’s a limit to resources they’ll put into a dog’s care if he stops performing.

    Come to think of it, maybe the taxpayer money spent on these dogs (I think I remember around $50,000 +/- each dog) is grounds to request more open information about their fates, and to track them and call for their rehab. They cost a lot more than the laptops …

  71. 71
    Hunter says:

    Considering the way our government treats human veterans (approximately 40,000 are homeless). this is really not surprising.

    Disgusting but not surprising.

  72. 72
    Tata says:

    I think I got 20 comments into this thread before I learned three news things that’ll ruin the rest of my day.

    You can know too much about things you can’t change.

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