Combat Dog Gains 'Fame' for Afghan War Effort
Renato with his handler, MA1 John Washington.
COLTS NECK, N.J. – A Navy working dog is the recipient of a rare honor for his contribution to the War On Terror, after overcoming the many obstacles that combat dogs face in Afghanistan.
“Renato,” a 6-year-old German Shepherd, and his handler, MA1 John Washington, served more than six months in Afghanistan through last October. For their work overseas, they are newly inducted into the New Jersey Veterinary Foundation’s Animal Hall of Fame.
“When we got selected I was very honored,” Washington, 36, told Pet Pulse. “I tell the guys all the time, ‘A celebrity’s walking.’ And I let him walk in the room.”
While stationed in Bagram, Washington says Renato helped hit the enemy -- right in the wallet.
“MWD Renato, he was actually able to detect a few narcotics stashes that were out there,” he said. “They were able to determine that a lot of the Taliban war efforts are funded by narcotics. So he was actually able to sniff some out, so we could burn the fields down, things like that.”
Renato and Washington were together 18 hours a day overseas. Renato’s job is detecting narcotics and the enemy. During the war he was often in harm’s way, acting as his unit’s first line of defense.
“Particularly military working dogs supposedly are targeted animals,” Washington said. “Because if you take one of them out, you can actually potentially have the entire unit. They should notify us of any deterrent that’s out there prior to us being able to see it.”
In the New Jersey Veterinary Foundation’s 13 years of Hall of Fame’s inductions, Renato and Washington are the first military honorees.
“I’m just proud of them,” said CPO Hans Semple, one of Washington’s superior officers stationed at Earle Navy Weapons Station in Colts Neck, N.J. “I’m very happy that our base can represent the Navy and the military working dogs.”
With Afghan temperatures approaching up to 140 degrees, Renato was sometimes walking on burning hot sand and pavement, and dodging dangerous creatures.
“Overheating is something that we always have to look out for,” Washington explained. “They have camel spiders that are out there that are actually pretty big. If they bite them it could be somewhat poisonous. Snakes, they have a lot of King Cobras out there.”
At the Earle base, Renato’s duties here are the same as overseas, making sure no narcotics or intruders compromise the weapons station. Pet Pulse watched Washington put Renato through his paces, including his navigation of an obstacle course.
Using another officer dressed in a heavily-padded suit, Washington demonstrated Renato’s skills. The black and brown dog attacked on command, ceased attacking on command, and after being told to attack he did an about-face, also on command.
Renato must remain sharp, since this duo could be deployed again at any time.
“It really depends on him,” Washington said. “It’s not so much me as it is, do they need him? If they need him I have to go.”
The Navy has some 375 working dogs available to serve in the war if necessary.
“The military working dog is a very important entity to the global war on terrorism,” Semple said.
Aside from being a war veteran and a Hall of Fame inductee, Renato is also a sweetheart, Washington says. As disciplined and effective as he is on duty, he is just as lovable off-duty, he says.
“I understand he’s my working partner, but he’s also my pet as well,” Washington said while petting Renato, who eagerly gave the officer his paw. “And then when he’s off duty, it’s me trying to please him.
“So it’s like a good marriage, I guess,” he said, laughing.
A marriage, that is, in which fighting comes with the territory.
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