When we last left Sergeant Noah Carpenter he was staring intently at a darkened spot of dirt on the ground. What initially caught his interest was that the dirt wasn’t the same color as the rest.
It could be nothing. What sent spikes of fear down his spine was that his Military Working Dog, Chuck the Natural, locked on that spot and refused to move. The Belgian Malinois was an unruly puppy with an incredible nose.The Natural loved to work and find explosives. But could Noah trust him?Noah looked over his shoulder at the hulking Green Beret behind him. This Special Forces A-Team hadn’t worked with a dog team since they’d arrived in country several weeks ago. A year ago that same team had been in the exact same area. They were attacked daily by the Taliban. Not everyone in the team had come home alive.Now they were blindly handing their trust to Noah. Noah was handing his trust to Chuck. One wrong move by either and it would be very hard to regain that trust from this tight-knit special operation team. Worse yet, someone could die.
Chuck whined and fidgeted but remained locked on the spot. He scratched at the spot lightly. Sweat beads rolled down Noah’s face as he stepped to the left to get a better look at where Chuck responded. He believed in Chuck. He had no choice.
There was something there. It was a dusty orange. He could see it.
It must be detonation cord.
Why hadn’t Chuck responded earlier?
Chuck began to dig at the spot. Hopefully what he found didn’t have a pressure plate detonation. Chuck was only 65 pounds, but there was still a risk it could blow just from his stepping on it. They were both practically on top of the explosive. If it blew up now, shrapnel would tear them both to shreds.
Noah jerked the 26-foot retractable leash and dragged Chuck away from the danger.
Chucked rubbed his head against Noah’s midsection as Noah stroked his head.
“What do you have, Sergeant?” asked the team leader.
“The dark spot right there, Sir,” Chuck responded. “There’s something buried there.”
The Captain eyed Noah for a few seconds. His eyes dropped to Chuck who had drool dripping from his jaw.
“All right. Let’s have the team explosive expert dig it up and see what we have.”
Ten minutes later the team determined that an Italian landmine was rigged to blow. It could have easily ripped them to shreds if it had exploded. The mine was buried eighteen inches deep.
Noah’s shoulders relaxed as he squatted down to hug The Natural. Thank goodness that detonation cord was just below the surface. Chuck wasn’t trained to detect anything buried more than a few inches deep. Noah just hadn’t had the time to work to that level of proficiency.That detonation cord had just saved their lives.
“Good boy, Chuck. Good boy,” Noah said in his ear.
Chuck’s tail wagged as praise poured from Noah’s lips. Now he wanted his “paycheck.” Noah wasn’t going to disappoint him. First some love and then his black Kong.
“Sir, we need to conduct a secondary sweep. There might be something else around here.”
Noah learned in his two deployments as a dog handler in Iraq that when there was smoke, there was very often more than one fire.
“Okay, take a security element and search while we blow this shit up.”
Noah nodded and did what may seem to most as unthinkable. He reached into The Natural’s alligator-like jaw and grasped the Kong. He couldn’t allow Chuck to keep it too long or it would no longer be a reward.
Noah worked his fingers around the Kong and commanded, “Out.”
Chuck shook his head playfully trying to pull away from Noah. Noah grasped the scruff of Chuck’s neck with his other hand. Chuck realized he meant business and released the Kong. Noah slipped the Kong into his cargo pocket and inspected his hand.
He saw a deep indention in the webbing between his thumb and index finger. Only one bite mark. Not too bad, he decided. He knew that next time he should put his gloves back on before playing with his Malligator’s jaw.
Chuck looked up with big sad eyes, but Noah knew what would cheer him up.
“Seek,” he said.
Chuck leaped forward, dropped his nose, and went back to work. Noah shook his head at Chuck whose tail flopped back and forth. The damn dog just wants to work so he can get his paycheck. Chuck was what they called in the dog world a “high drive dog.” He loved to work. He loved to receive his paycheck. His energy was also challenging to reign in.
Chuck’s nostrils flared and his left ear stood straight up. Noah knew The Natural was on another scent. Adrenaline flushed through Noah. Chuck was going to have a second find on his first mission in Afghanistan.
Chuck whipped his head from side to side, quickly closing in on the explosive. He jerked back and stopped at a tan burlap bag. Noah walked up to investigate. He knew if it contained something ready to blow, they would be both dead.
But the bag was empty except for some black specks. Chuck had zeroed in on the explosive residue.
This must have been the sack they carried the mine and other improvised explosive device (IED) material in, Noah thought. He “paid” Chuck, secured the bag, and handed it to the team leader.
“Nice, Sergeant. Good work today.”
Noah’s chest swelled with pride as every member of the A-Team thanked him for finding the IED. It was just another day in Afghanistan. But it was an important day. He had earned the respect of the Green Berets. And he had gained trust in Chuck.
He also identified another of Chuck’s fatal flaws. Now he needed to get back to their outpost, secure the training material necessary to fix his dog.
Chuck needed to learn to detect explosives buried deeper than two inches. If he didn’t, they might not be so lucky on the next patrol.
Need to get caught up with Chuck and Noah? Start with Part I.