For eight years Danica Dada Djikov and Mine Detector Dog Cindy practically lived in the mine fields of Bosnia Heregovina.
Six days a week, 12 hours a day, surrounded by landmines, Danica committed herself to clearing her country of these barbaric weapons. She would do everything in her power to ensure that no one would ever again lose family or friends to a landmine. She personally had lost too many already.
But after eight years of doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, Danica was burned out. She had a young child at home who needed her to be a mom. So she did one of the hardest things she’s ever done.
She walked away after clearing over a half a million square meters of mine fields in her country. The worst part of leaving the minefields was that Danica would have to leave Cindy. Cindy didn’t have the freedom Danica did. Mine Detector Dog Cindy belonged to the Canadian International Demining Corps and they were still in need of her services.
Danica walked away from the most rewarding thing she had done to that point. But she wasn’t done with dogs or clearing explosives. Helping her homeland was only the first chapter for this child of war.
Over the next few years, Danica had lots of time to reflect and realized that her heart was in one thing. She knew that she belonged working with dogs—dogs that help and save others. So she began searching for another opportunity to serve. Danica bounced around a few other K9 companies. With each company came a new dog, but she longed to be reunited with her best pal, Cindy, with whom she maintained contact.
But it was not meant to be. The world had other plans for Danica.
After searching for a while, she heard about that the American contractor, American K9 in Afghanistan, was equipping the 2,800 service member Canadian Army Task Force with working dog teams in southern Afghanistan.
As I mentioned in the first post in this series, according to the Cape Breton Press in 2010, “Of the 138 Canadian soldiers who have died during the Afghan mission, more than 120 were killed by IEDs or land mines, including one that killed five soldiers and a Canadian journalist.”
Up to this point in her mine detector dog career Danica had worked in only former war zones. Now this single parent was considering leaving her eleven year old son, Stefan, and going to a current war zone.
Could she leave her son?
What if she was killed? Who would take care of Stefan?
But her skills were needed in a new war zone. How could she not go?
For months the internal battle raged within this child of war. In the end Danica’s desire to help people in a current war zones was too great. She couldn’t get the picture out of her mind of those innocent children—children just like Stefan—being killed and maimed by landmines and IED’s in Afghanistan.
She was just a child during the Bosnian war, but now she had the ability to help the Afghan people the same way her country had been helped by NATO Soldiers
Danica never forgot what the Canadian International Demining Corps had done for her personally or the country of Bosnia Herzegovina. She decided to give back and applied to for a position with the Canadian Army contract held by American K9 in Afghanistan.
As a mine detector dog handler Danica had only to worry about being killed by what was buried in the ground. Now she would have to worry about that and an enemy force dead set on killing as many coalition troops as possible.
She knew that the Taliban wouldn’t distinguish between her as a Bosnian Herzegovinian trying to clear explosives and a Canadian Soldier.
She interviewed in Sarajevo and was quickly hired by American K9. Within ten days of being hired she was on an airplane headed to Afghanistan.
She worried that she wouldn’t be able to connect with a new dog.
She worried she wouldn’t be able to pick up this new skill of Patrol Explosive Detector Dog handling.
She was worried the men wouldn’t accept her.
But the hardest thing and what she worried about most was leaving her son Stefan. She worried the next time Stefan would see her was when she came back in a body bag.
How does Danica pair with her new dog?
How is Danica received by the Canadian Army Forces?
Stay tuned for the next exciting iteration of Danica: A Child of War!
The next chapter (IV) in this series, Danica Arrives in Afghanistan.
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