Marc w Anax lying down next to him

Marc & Anax: Can Marc Certify with his new dog Dark?

This is the next chapter in the compelling story of Army Specialist Marc Whittaker, his military working dog (MWD) Anax (now retired) and his new MWD, Dark. I suggest you read the first few pieces to get caught up if you haven’t already.

This is Part VI of The Marc and Anax series. You may wish to read Part V or skip right back to Part I first.

Readers Digest version: Anax is injured in Afghanistan protecting Marc. Anax loses his leg as a result. Anax is now located in Texas with Marc’s family. Marc is in Germany trying to get back “on the leash” and channel his passion for dogs through MWD Dark. But MWD Dark is no MWD Anax.  

Marc Whittaker slammed his hand down of the buzzing alarm clock and turned over. He wasn’t in the mood today. He pulled the sheets over his shoulders tightly. He lay in bed not wanting to move. But that wasn’t an option.

He was a Soldier, an Army dog handler, and there were dogs at the kennels that needed his attention. Two dogs to be exact: his current dog—patrol narcotic dog Dark and his former dog, patrol explosive detector dog (retired)Anax.Army Specialist Marc Whitaker with Military Working Dog Anax

The frigging military system was taking forever to approve Anax’s retirement. There were so many bureaucratic hoops to leap through. Anax had three legs for God’s sake. You would think it would be easier for Anax to retire and then for Marc to adopt the dog that lost his leg protecting him.

Be patient, Marc, he told himself. It will happen. Everything happens for a reason. If the process was quicker Anax would already be home in Texas. Then you wouldn’t get to see him every day, he told himself.

It was time to get back on the horse. It was time to regain the swagger he lost during the fire fight in Afghanistan, the same fire fight that injured his pal Anax.

He had certification coming up with Dark. They had failed certification last time. Marc wasn’t used to failing anything, so it was a bitter pill to swallow. It was embarrassing that he couldn’t work law enforcement or missions with Dark. It sucked that other teams in the kennel had to pick up his slack.

He was determined to get Dark righted and put on the correct path. He would fix this puppy, they would certify, and things could resume some semblance of normalcy until he got ready for his Permanent Change of Station. The newest and greatest news was that Marc had been able to land a slot at Fort Hood, Texas. In October he would leave Germany and be about three hours from his home town.

He was ready for a change. No, he needed a change—a fresh start, a new kennel, and a new dog were exactly what he needed.

But that was in the future. He had work to do here in Germany first. He needed to fix Military Working Dog Dark. So he would fix Dark.

After his last certification his supervisors ordered him to spend less time with Anax. But that was never going to happen. Marc would never give up spending time with his little son Anax. So he snuck extra time in with Anax whenever he could. But he spent the majority of time training Dark.

The other handlers of the kennel stood behind Marc. As a kennel they worked hard on fixing Dark’s issues. Marc was confident he could fix Dark because his fellow Soldiers had his back. Another team from his kennel, SSG Lee and MWD Fibi, were preparing to deploy, so SSG Lee and Marc spent a lot of time training together.

Dark’s first problem was that he was fringing. Fringing is what it’s called when a working dog gives a final response like sitting as soon as he is in the odor cone of the explosive. This means the dog hasn’t identified the exact location of the odor but is close. In the dog community this is referred to as “not working the odor to source.”

Dark’s second problem was his false sitting. Dark just sat even when there was no odor in the area. Marc knew that his dog was just frustrated and wanted his toy. He knew that Dark was trying. He also knew that Dark’s frustration could be running down the leash from Marc.

He refused to allow that to happen again. He would be patient with his new puppy. He just had to come to terms with the fact that Dark wasn’t Anax. Of course it would be nice if Dark had a high drive like Anax. But he didn’t, so Marc was stuck with this low drive puppy.

Marc was excited as he drove to his second certification attempt in Grafenwoehr, Germany. He was confident in them as a team. He knew he wasn’t devoted or attached to Dark like he was with Anax. Sure, this could hinder their FULL potential as a team. But he was confident they would pass certification.Marc in Afghanistan

He was elated to see the same certifying official, Master Sergeant Hillis, from his last certification in Baumholder. Marc wanted to show Hillis that he had listened, fixed his dog’s deficiencies, and was on track.

His heart beat fast and he nodded with anticipation as HIllis provided instructions.

“Whittaker, you and Dark are up first,” Hillis said.

Marc nodded and knelt down next to Dark.

“You can do this pal. I believe in you,” Marc whispered as he stoked Dark’s head.

“Whittaker, let’s go,” Hillis said.

Marc stood back up, looked down the road he was preparing to search, and nodded. He leaned over, released Dark from his leash, and commanded, “Seek.”

Dark surged forward. His tail wagged slowly, his nose was about eight inches from the ground, and he searched the road in a tight pattern.

Marc smiled. He knew this was it. He was going to do this!

How does Marc fare at his second attempt at certification?

Has Marc’s frustration affected Dark’s performance?

Can he ever build a bond with Dark like he had with Anax?

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this series! 

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12 thoughts on “Marc & Anax: Can Marc Certify with his new dog Dark?

  1. Tina Clifford

    Are you kidding me? Leaving it at that, not telling us if they qualified? Brilliant story telling and I have been hooked for a while. Thanks for your efforts.

    I am a 7 year US Army Veteran, married to a Disabled Vet, daughter of a WWII Veteran also dad’s brother was a WWII pilot, sister of 3 brothers who served, 2 Army, one Air Force.
    Also fierce dog lovers, all of us. I have a 5 month old black lab curling around my feet as I type. His big brother is a 100 lb chocolate Lab and the Queen of the farm is a 25 lb chocolate colored hound female.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Sorry Tina….just seemed like a logical place to stop! :-) I’m constantly hemming and hawing about my post length….too long and folks lose interest….too short then why bother! Next time for sure will be the answer and more. I really respect Marc and what he has been through. His story is incredibly heart wrenching.

      You have a tremendous family tradition of service…!

      100lb chocolate…..never seen one that big! When I was a Lieutenant my buddy had one….I used to take him running all the time…loved that dog! A star of my first novel is a black lab. I based her character of a real life explosive dog named Archie. When I met Archie in Khandahar I bet he barely weighed 45 pounds. It was the dead of summer and he was back there to rest and bulk up.

  2. Kim Therrien

    C’mon….you are a closet masochist aren’t you? I have sat and read the ENTIRE set of articles now this?….aaaarrggghhhh…..ok…yes you are a great story teller…..yes I love your website….no I can’t get enough MWD stories and YES you are most definitely appreciated! Thanks…now get to work on the next installment!

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Hi Kim. Sorry but I try to keep my posts to about 800 words…… Makes telling the whole story challenging! :-)

      I will work on the next one in this series in a few weeks. Next week I have a Daniel and Bony chapter to unveil!

  3. Worship Dancer

    i absolutely LOVE the pic of your “smiling” friend. but GRRRRRRRRRRRRR that you stopped at the point you did. so when do we get the next chapter?

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Thank you!

      Next Chapter……I have Daniel and Bony complete up next…. Probably next month for so. This weekend I am writing a new Honza Bear! I wish I wrote full time but alas the job that pays the bills calls daily! :-)

  4. Toni Kenyon

    Aargh…. I need more! :-)
    Such a great story and you have me hooked! I’ve only ever experienced dogs as pets -we have a golden retriever who drops hair EVERYWHERE and a much loved elderly staffie. I’ve only just discovered your site and I’m enjoying reading about working dogs.
    I’m subscribing so I don’t miss the next instalments ;-)


  5. Kevin Hanrahan

    Hi Toni. Great to have you on the site! Thanks for your interest in our two and four legged warriors! Don’t forget to back track and read about Marc and Anax from the start. They are true patriots.

  6. Lucia Migrditchian

    For love of a dog. And in its memory. Nothing more to say. Keep up what you do. Youre able to convey whats imprtant. Thanks for the read.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Hi Lucia. Thank you. This story certainly has twists and turns. I think the next turn is nearly dramtatic as when Anax got hit…….

  7. Wauneta L. Bell

    I guess I have a lot of backtracking to do. I’ve read two entries but it appears I’ve missed a lot. I’m hooked and will find my way to the beginning.
    Our club trains the pubic to train their dogs to be good family and community dogs. It ‘s nothing compared to training military dogs but hopefully it helps to prevent many of them from ending up in shelters. I will be back to catch up.
    Thanks, I love the story. Maybe there is a book or two in your future.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Hi Wauneta. Thanks stopping by and checking out the site. Marc and Anax is simply a fantastic story and I’m working on some new parts of it now. Hope to see you around again!


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