A Child of War Clears Her Country of Landmines
Did you read Part I of this series yet?
So what is a patriotic citizen of Bosnian Herzegovina to do when her country is paralyzed from landmines? Go find the mines and remove them. Isn’t that what we would all do?
According to Wikipedia there have been 498 deaths and 1210 serious injuries from land mines in Bosnia Herzegovina since 1992. I have read other reports that say that the number of land mine casualties may be closer to 5000.
As I mentioned in my last post, Danica Dada Djikov was a child of this war. Danica’s hometown of Drabinje, Bosnia Herzegovina and the surrounding countryside was littered with mines after the Bosnian War.
The great majority of families felt the effects of these landmines. Danica was no different. She lost several close members of her family to land mines. She also had close friends that lost their legs due to landmines. These memories are so painful that she can’t talk about them to this day.
Danica went to the newly established Canadian International Demining Corps with more than 100 candidates. She and three other candidates were chosen that first day to become mine detector dog (MDD) handlers.
Danica met the new center of her world—Mine Detector Dog Cindy. Cindy was one-year-old German shepherd.
Cindy had a very strong temperament and was a hulk of a dog. When Danica first saw the aggressive Cindy barking and jumping around, she was petrified of her. Her instructor, Sid Murray, gave her the leash and told her, “Go get your dog.”
The students and instructors all laughed. Though she was embarrassed, Danica couldn’t help but join them in laughter as Cindy slobbered over her with kisses.
“They really worked well together and I found Danica to be very hard-working to get the training with Cindy right,” Sid Murray, Danica’s former instructor at the Canadian International Demining Corps, said.
Danica and Cindy were both green—meaning that neither of them had the basic knowledge of how to work together. Together, they learned from the ground up to search and find mine landmines. Danica also had to pass her de-miner certification. That’s right, she didn’t just find them. Danica trained on how to remove the landmines and destroy them. Danica excelled at the training.
After she got started training with Mine Detector Dog Cindy, the hardest part of Danica’s day was leaving Cindy at the kennels each night. The separation became unbearable so Danica went out and purchased a German shepherd puppy, Maxi. But she kept finding herself calling her new puppy Cindy. So she changed Maxi’s name to Cindy. Danica now had a Cindy at work and a Cindy at home.
After graduation Danica began her quest to help her homeland. Danica and Cindy began working six days a week for 11 months a year in the minefields of Bosnia Herzegovina. As they travelled, worked and lived together all over Bosnia Herzegovina, their bond continued to strengthen. They began clearing Bosnia Herzegovina of mines at a rate of 1600 square meters per day. This is equivalent to .4 acres a day.
“Working in the mine fields is truly frightening, but at same time it is the most beautiful feeling when you find mines and clean a land mine area. That feeling when you know that your find most likely saved someone’s life is priceless,” Danica Dada Djikov says.
During the eight years Danica and Cindy cleared minefields she witnessed several people either killed or injured from mines. She felt the loss of every one and constantly wondered if she could have made a difference or if it should have been her.
The worst part of clearing mines was when Cindy actually alerted. How did she recall Cindy without Cindy making a movement that would cost her life? She is, after all, a dog. This became the hardest part of clearing mines for Danica. She wasn’t worried about hurting or killing herself. She was worried about her Cindy.
One of the scariest moments of Danica’s life was when she was clearing a road in the mountains near Sarajevo. There was a truck tire half dug into the road. She left Cindy in the truck and walked down to move the tire.
She slid her hand into the hole and could feel cold metal and wires and froze. Her heart began to pound and she knew she had found an improvised explosive device. Inside were three hand grenades connected with wires.
She slowly moved her hands out and moved back to the road. Cindy had pressed her head up against the window and was staring at her. Danica knew that she was saying, “What the heck are you doing without me, Mom. I’m supposed to be out front.”
For eight years Danica and Cindy spent the majority of their life in the minefields of Bosnia Herzegovina. As a team, they are credited with clearing a half a million square meters of mine fields.
What leads Danica to Afghanistan?
What happens to Cindy?
The next chapter (III) in this series, From the Minefields of Bosnia- Herzegovina to the IED of Afghanistan is already published!
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