John with Arm up

John and Honza Bear: By the Wag of a Tail

This Part VII of John and Honza Bear. If you haven’t already read the first six sections you may wish to skip back to Part I before reading this one.

Cold, thick air swirled in front of Specialist John Nolan’s face, disappearing into the blue sky as his heart pounded.

Somewhere along the way the sun had broken through the murky grey Afghanistan sky and John could feel a bead of sweat roll down his back which seemed to disappear somewhere in the small of his back.

Snow across AfghanEven with the fresh foot of snow, he was glad that he had only worn one extra layer of clothing underneath his uniform. He used his gloved hand to wipe another bead of sweat from his left temple.

Surely every member of the Green Beret Team he was patrolling with him could hear his heart pounding? He swore it must sound like a bass drum of a marching band.

Well, maybe they would have if they hadn’t backed up when John signaled them to stop. He didn’t remember signaling them to move back, but it appeared they had anyway.

Maybe they knew something about this wadi he was about to enter?

John watched as his partner, Specialized Search Dog Honza “Bear”, traced through the two-foot deep snow, surging in front of John and into the wadi fearlessly.

Did “The Bear” ever get scared, John wondered?

His 100-pound yellow-furred partner’s tail was wagging, nose low, and John could hear the crunching over snow as Honza worked the ground looking for explosives.

Honza didn’t look scared. Damn dog looked like he was having fun.

If he wasn’t scared, then John shouldn’t be either.

John and HB In the snowHave faith in “The Bear,” Nolan, John told himself. Get your ass down into that wadi with your partner.

After only two steps an anxious pulse surged though John’s body as Honza jerked back. That was his change of behavior and John knew “The Bear” had caught a whiff of something dangerous.

As Honza worked the odor, John followed him cautiously, stepping exactly where Honza had while watching his dog’s every move.

His chances of not getting blown up were better if he followed Honza’s paw prints with his boot prints.

But nothing was guaranteed.

There was definitely something here and John could easily set it off by stepping on it.

“We have something, so back up,” John hollered to the Green Beret team who responded by backing up further from the wadi.

Honza Bear’s nose went high left, then low left, then high right, then low left, then right trying to pinpoint where the IED was. He let out a low growl and John could sense his frustration.

The scent of explosives seemed to be everywhere and John knew “The Bear” was having trouble determining the exact location of the source.

John froze in place. He was done testing the ground with his own weight. If the explosives were rigged to be set off by a pressure plate then they would both be blown to pieces.

Honza moved swiftly towards John. He sniffed around John’s feet and looked up at John with his big brown eyes.

John could see the anguish in his partner’s eyes and the thought that maybe this was his day to die slowly crept into his mind.

Honza took two steps forward and sat down. That was his final response. Honza had found the explosive source.SSD Honza in the snow

John was about three feet from where Honza was showing the explosive was buried. He stared back at Honza, trying to decide if Honza was actual “on odor” or had sat down out of frustration.

But Honza’s tail was flopping back in forth faster than a windshield wiper in a downpour.

Trust ”The Bear,” he told himself

John knew this wasn’t a false alarm. Honza was “on odor.” It was time to praise Honza and get them both the hell out of there.

As John prepared to step forward to praise Honza, he noticed a dark spot shining like a beacon in the white snow right where he was about to step.

Honza’s tail kept wagging, brushing the snow away from the dark object now only partially covered by the snow.

It was a goddamn doorbell ringer attached to 9-volt battery. John could see wires connected to it. He knew where those wires went.

Right to the damn explosives that would send him home in a pine box.

The doorbell was the Improvised Explosive Device’s initiator. He would have walked right on the damn device if it hadn’t been for Honza Bear’s tail.

His trembling hands reached into his cargo pocket and pulled out a chemical light stick. He ripped open the package with his teeth, snapped to activate the light stick, and tossed it next to the 9 volt battery.

He used hand signals to direct Honza around the detonator and stepped back slowly to make sure he didn’t slip in the snow. After about 10 feet, he turned and walked quickly back to the team.

Honza stayed glued to his hip.

Twenty minutes later the sound of a deafening explosion reached the Green Beret team as John cupped his hands over his ears to protect his hearing. Honza flinched but didn’t otherwise move as John reached down and stroked his back.

The Green Beret engineer and explosives expert had a huge grin on his face and said, “That should take care of that shit!”

John figured he probably rigged the IED with some C4 and blew the IED in place.

That was a lot better than the IED blowing him and the Green Berets to pieces.

That hadn’t happened thanks to one Soldier.

One four-legged Soldier.

Honza Bear had saved them all—again.

But John knew they might not be so lucky the next time. This snow was kicking his ass and causing Honza Bear fits.

But there was nothing he could do. They would forge forward.

Specialist John Nolan knew that his Green Beret brothers were depending on him and Honza Bear to keep them safe.

Want to see what Honza Bear is up to today? Just head over to Honza Bear’s Facebook Page and say hello! Don’t forget to “like” his page.

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22 thoughts on “John and Honza Bear: By the Wag of a Tail

  1. Sally Lowen

    Congratulations on your new job! Well deserved. Beautiful baby boy on the beach. How great to have ” John Nolan and the Bear” working with you. Thank them as well as all, including you, for the work you do to keep us out of harms way.

  2. Ginger

    Wow, Kevin, what a story! So cool that a wag could save a life! Though I’ve often felt that my Belgian’s and collie’s tail wags do that for me, it’s not quite this literal! Keep these great stories coming.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Ginger…..I was amazed when John shared this story with me……just amazing that he almost stepped on the device. That Honza Bear….. he is like a guardian angel!

  3. Jani Muhlestein

    *Whimper* if Honza had sat down in a slightly different spot, John and Honza wouldn’t be running for Hero Dog of the Year. And that baby would be growing up without a daddy. How many times does it come this close? The fact that we don’t lose more of these teams is a testament to the fact that miracles happen every single day. I will be very grateful to get rid of my RED shirt.

    I’m so happy that John will be under your command. If only under your watchful eye for a little while, since you’ll be moving. We demand a lot of pictures!

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      It comes that close more than any one wants to know. Everyday when you leave the relative safety of your camp, you are rolling the dice, and some days you will roll snake eyes. John was just lucky that day, there are many not so lucky.

      Lots of pictures…. I haven’t even seen my new office but I’ll be sure to put Honza in my seat for a picture!

      1. Jani Muhlestein

        How long are you going to stay in Virginia? Or do you even know? Pictures of Honza, please. And pictures of your office, too. Fortunately, you can do that at the same time.

        So naturally I was thinking of you guys today, after hearing the news about Boston. I kept thinking about how much all of these guys and their pups have risked for us. We had a perfect example of what could have happened this morning. Makes this story all the more poignant and all the more frightening. I’m so glad that they’re home! And I’m worried about Daniel and Bony.

        I can’t help but think that we’re going to have to have a lot more of these teams now, for use here on US soil. If Honza had been there earlier this morning, two people might be alive. (Or a Honza-like canine being…)

        Take care of yourself and that angel baby Brady and sweet Meg. Hold them close tonight. I’ll be doing the same with the 15-year old.

        1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

          Hi Jani, we will late spring/ early summer of next year……. or so we are planning but you just never know with the Army!

          I can see Honza sitting in my chair now!

          TY, I have very fond memories of Patriots Day, Boston, the Marathon, skipping school and driving from UMASS-Amherst to the city. It makes me sad….I had one really good friend whose wife was running…. she is fine.

  4. Carole Remy

    Wow! Shivers and tears and thanks for the safety of John and Honza Bear. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this next episode of the story. Whew! Worth the wait…

    Kevin, there’s a shout out to you on my blog today (click the commentluv link). Thanks for all you do.

    Hugs to you all,


  5. Keith Baron

    Hello Kevin.Another brilliant episode from Afghanistan about the outstanding John and Honza Bear and the Green Berets.I was reading this to my wife and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and she had a few tears but was so glad that John and Honza Bear and the rest of the team came through safe.We often think of all the troops out in Afghanistan and the lovely brave war dogs and hope that when they leave that dangerous place that they all return home safely to their families.
    We look forward to the next story Kevin,God bless you and your lovely family and all your service colleagues.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Keith, so happy to hear that you and your wife enjoyed this episode of the story. It is easier for me to write it now that I know John and Honza are safe and sound but there were some days when I was quite worried about them while they were deployed.

  6. Tami

    Oooo… I got chills when John stopped! Trust the “Bear”… so glad he did and they are both safe… and their Green Berets!!

  7. Jan Morrill

    I held my breath as I read your story. Thank you for putting us “there” with Honza Bear (I have a black lab named “Bear”) and the rest of the team. So glad this one had a happy ending. Thank you to all those who serve.

  8. Elizabeth Miller

    Thank you so much for all that you do with the publishing of these stories. I enjoy reading your stories and look forward to your name in my mail box.

    we love you HONZA BEAR

  9. Cindy Malison

    Great story. I typically don’t read stories about animals because I always end up crying…well, this one made me cry too, but definitely worth reading.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Cindy, thank you. This is a terrific story which is full of real life drama and provides and an accurate picture of what our handlers go through. Thanks for reading!

  10. MJ Hill

    Congrats on the new job. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your vacation, in my home area. Loved the update on Honza Bear, great story.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thank you! I stated the new job this week…… always a bit stressful but I feel better because I’m back to waking before work to write. This always makes me feel belter during the day! :-)


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