In June 2012, a three-year-old military working dog named Layka was on a Special Ops mission in Afghanistan, along with her squadron. During a search for explosives, she encountered an insurgent. Although she was shot multiple times in her legs and abdomen, Layka launched straight at her attacker, putting her life in danger and saving the lives of her handler and team.
"She surprised the terrorist, who was waiting to lay down fire on the team. I heard from people on the mission that if Layka hadn't reacted like she did, there was a potential for multiple casualties," said Technical Sgt. Joseph Null, the 341st TRS military working dogs adoptions coordinator.
National Geographic magazine featured her on the cover of their latest issue with a moving article on the dogs of war.
The video features an interview with Staff Sgt. Julian Mcdonald, Layka’s handler, who has now adopted her because she’s no longer able to serve on active duty.
“It’s just heartening to know that the people that are sending me out on targets and are making me fight call these animals excess equipment,” said an emotional Mcdonald.“You can ask anybody that has ever been in a firefight and somebody who has used a dog to save their life or you have worked with any kind of platoon that utilizes a dog, they’ll tell you the dudes who have boots on the ground will say these dogs are just like our brothers.”
Although Layka received a medal of heroism from the unit's parent organization, the 37th Training Group, the commander made a point to mention that the medal is not official.
"The medal is unofficial because no decoration exists for military working dogs, but we felt Layka deserved recognition," said Harris. "What these dogs do, day in and day out, is phenomenal. They do save lives. Layka was shot and still attacked the person shooting her. She's been through a lot, and what she did is nothing less than heroic."