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.
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.
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.
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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