Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Killing the innocent . . .

I only remember being really disturbed one time about a shoot/ don't shoot decision.

"You shot the dog?"
"Yeah, well, I was number one in the stack, and when I went in the door, there was fucking Cujo, right there in my face, fucking barking and snarling and lunging and drooling. So I shot his ass."
"Man, I can't believe you shot the dog."

I really didn't think it was a bad call - a dog can do a lot of damage if it wants - but it bothered me a little bit. The bad guys we were hunting had made a deliberate decision to try to screw up life for their neighbors, and to try to kill us, so I didn't (and still don't) spend a lot of time worrying that I was trying to kill them first. This dog, though, belonged to the family that lived in the compound we were bouncing, and was just reacting to the sudden threat. Most Pashtuns keep dogs as watchdogs or attack dogs, but they consider them unclean and don't develop a lot of attachment to them. This one apparently was more of a pet than usual. It was really heartbreaking to see the kids afterword, crying over their dog. We all felt awful about it - not the shooting, but the aftermath. That one definitely went in the minus column for rapport building. I'm sure years from now, that kid will be saying "Damn Americans. They killed my dog."

On the other hand, it certainly wasn't the only dog we killed. There were a lot of feral dogs there, and they would try to inflitrate our burn pit / garbage dump outside the compound. We had multiple rolls of concertina around the pit, but these dogs could have been VC sappers, they were so good at getting through it. There was a real risk of disease from them, so guys would snipe them from the roof, using silenced weapons so as not to set the camp off. It was a bit disconcerting how many center mass shots a dog could take from a 5.56 before it went down. The guys eventually started taking only headshots - it was considered the height of artistry to make a clean shot that caused the dog to fall into the burn pit, so that nobody had to drag the body over there later.

I never joined in - I have a soft spot where animals are concerned - but I also did in my share of dogs. For a while there, I was known as the "Puppy Slayer", since I was the one who always seemed to take care of the injured or diseased puppies that we ran across or that showed up in our camp. The first time, we were out on a patrol and spending the night at the police compound in a small village at the foot of some Taliban infested mountains. This little puppy wandered up, scrawny and starving, and so infested with mange that he had literally scratched his ears to ragged ribbons. It was just pitiful.

Bobby, my team's senior weapons sergeant, was, if anything, more softhearted than I was about animals. He was another conscientious objector from the Dog Sniping Range back at camp. He and Dan were looking at the puppy and talking, then Dan walks up to me. "Man, that's just pitiful." "Yeah, it sure is." I replied. "I was just talking to Bobby. He thinks we ought to put it down." "Yeah, you're right. Let's go talk to the doc." Jack looked at us like we were talking a foreign language: "I'm not wasting my drugs on putting a dog down. What if we get hit tonight? What if one of us needs the drugs tonight?" Dan and I agreed that he was right, and Dan went back to talk to Bobby. He comes back a few minutes later. "So," I asked, "is Bobby going to take the dog out?" Dan looks at me a little uncomfortably for a minute and said "He says he can't do it." I realized that Dan was telling me he didn't want to do it either.

I told Dan I'd take care of it, and asked him to let the Afghans know they'd hear a shot from right outside the wall in a few minutes, and not to panic. I went to the back of the GMV and grabbed an MRE. I ripped it open and took out the main meal pouch, then went over and scooped the puppy up under one arm. He kind of snuggled in to the crook of my arm, which made me feel even worse. We went out of a small back gate in the wall, and I set the puppy down, petted him for a few minutes, and opened up the MRE pouch. I petted the puppy again, set the meal down in front of the him and he dug in. I let him eat for a few minutes, gobbling and growling, and then drew my pistol and shot him in the back of the head. Fortunately, he went down immediately, pitching into the remains of the beef stew in front of him. I walked back to the GMV, got my e-tool, and covered him and the MRE over with dirt. Everybody was pretty quiet for a few minutes after that. It probably seems a little strange, wasting pity and remorse on an animal in the middle of Afghanistan, but there you have it.

6 Comments:

Blogger Lennie Briscoe said...

Man...you wasted a perfectly good beef stew. Couldn't you use the dumplings instead?

10:04 AM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Hey,

Well, I have to tell this "no bullshit" story.

BTW, this is the first time I have told this story. So if you can't feel grateful, at least feel special.

In early 68, just after I had been rudely inserted into the "conflict" that nobody wanted.

We had just been inserted into an AO where VC activity had been reported. It was very early in the am, dark thirty.

We came down about 5 km from our AO and traveled the dikes and trails as quitely as thirty or so Americans could (not so quite). We were a new unit and had a lot to learn.

To cut to the chase, we didn't find any VC but one of our nervous troops shot a water bufflo. We promised the owner he would be paid later.

After we got back, we smelled something like your home b-b-q. Later it was found out one of the guys from Texas had cut a few choice pieces from the bufflo and was cooking them.

He didn't share.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

No, I am not admitting anything, and they never could prove it anyway.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Toni said...

I tried to leave you a comment this morning but blogger ate it for lunch. I wanted to let you know that you sucked me in hook, line and sinker with the puppy story. Here, I'm thinking, ohhhh he's going to take care of the nice little mangy puppy! Then you shoot it in the head. lol

12:32 AM  
Anonymous joekujo said...

Man, that's tough. I'm not sure how much it changes you to shoot a puppy in the back of the head, but you sure did it in the most humane way possible. Don't know if I'd be able to do it.

7:41 AM  
Anonymous Razor said...

The fact that it was so hard to do, and you did it with such care only proves how kindhearted you really are.

11:02 PM  
Blogger British National Party member said...

Bless you. Im a big dog lover... If the poor thing was really suffering, and you did what you really believed was right...

I like that you gave him a meal. He was probably the happiest he had been in a long time, which is a good a time to die as any.

1:48 PM  

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