Danica Arrives in Afghanistan
Would the Canadian soldiers accept her?
What if the Taliban captured her?
Would she ever see her son, Stefan, again?
Was she really heading to Afghanistan to find explosives with a dog she had never met?
What the hell was she doing?
They had to take a bus to an isolated section of the Dubai airport to board their plane. Danica Djikov glanced at the seated women and noticed she was the only one standing. The women were a hodgepodge.
Some were fully covered in black burquas and she could see their solemn eyes glancing at the other passengers discreetly.
There were even women wearing western clothing except their their heads were wrapped in scarves. One of them was wearing a business suit and looked important.
The olive-skinned Persian men on the bus were an interesting mix. Many wore western clothing and could have easily blended in with any crowd.
Then she looked at the men wearing traditional Salwar Kameez, or loose, pajama-like clothing. Most sported a little white cap called a kufi and maintained neatly trimmed facial hair. They reminded her of Persian merchant traders she had seen in the movies dealing in silk, fine metal, and jewelry.
She zipped her sweatshirt over her chest and ignored the leering stares of the Persian men.
There were a host of western looking men who were dressed as if they were ready for hiking or a safari. They were foreign contractors just like her.
But she doubted any of them was heading to Afghanistan to lead combat patrols like she was.
It will work out, Danica, she told herself. You survived eight years of minefield clearing in Bosnia Herzegovinian. The children of Afghanistan need you to clear their land of explosives now.
The modern bus driven by what looked to be a Bangladeshi man jerked to a stop and Danica grasped the pole tightly as bodies jerked inside the bus.
Danica stood firmly.
She could handle herself. She could handle this. She could handle Afghanistan.
She stepped out of the bus and stared up at the plane that would take her to a war zone.
Who the hell are they? I guess Lufthansa doesn’t fly to Afghanistan.
The dilapidated white plane had clearly seen better days. The inside décor was dated, with steile, cold lines of tan, light orange and green.
Ten minutes later the rickety aircraft picked up speed and groaned as it lifted into the air. Now there was no turning back. Not that she wanted too.
She missed working with a dog. She had worked with Mine Detector Dog Cindy for nearly eight years. Now Cindy was working with a new handler in the minefields. But Danica was still in contact with her mentors at the Canadian International Demining Corporation who informed her that there was a chance she would be able to adopt Cindy. Cindy was getting too old for this work.
Nearly three hours and a time change later the plane descended towards the Kandahar airport. Danica stared out the dirt streaked window at the small patches of green dotted throughout the barren land. There were no roads, homes, or trees as far as she could see.
All she could see were either pomegranate or poppy fields. She had done her research on Afghanistan. Southern Afghanistan especially is known for these two things and they couldn’t be more in contrast of one another.
But she wasn’t here to help irradiate poppy fields and prevent heroine from hitting western countries’ streets. She was in Afghanistan for the explosives.
“So Patrol Explosive Dog Alex is a dog we’ve had some aggression issues with. He has been without a handler for almost four months now,” said Matt, her new supervisor from American Canine Detection Services.
“I’ll take him.”
“Are you sure? You haven’t even met him.”
Why had she jumped at their first offer?
Surely they had an ample supply of dogs at the kennel. There must be some dogs without aggression issues.
She stared out of the sport utility vehicle as they passed through camp. There were troops from a variety of countries and various tactical vehicles creeping through camp. Far outnumbering the tactical vehicles, SUVs and small white pickup trucks zipped up and down the paved roads. The camp was a mix of wooden, aluminum (portable) buildings, and stone structures that she assumed must be left over from the Taliban regime.
Maybe she was simply excited to be paired with a dog again. Or maybe she wanted an aggressive dog in this testosterone-driven military world.
Maybe she could use an aggressive dog if she got into the thick of it with the Taliban.
Maybe deep down Danica knew that she was all alone in this foreign and alien land. Having a loyal partner with a mean streak wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
It wouldn’t be such a bad thing as long as she could convince Alex that she was in charge, a feat multiple handlers before her had failed to achieve.
Does Danica bond with Patrol Explosive Dog Alex?
How does she fare as the only woman in her training class?
Will she receive the opportunity to join the Canadian Army outside the wire on patrol or be resigned to camp duty?
Stay tuned for the next chapter in this exciting true story!
So this weekend I appeared on a fabulous radio show, The Dog Work Radio Show in Alaska. I talked Military Working Dogs with Robert Forto and had a great time.
It is really weird to hear yourself on the radio.
The interview was totally unscripted and I had no idea what Robert was going to ask me. But if you want to listen to me speak about MWD I recommend you check it out here!
Am I the only one that hates listening to themselves?
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