Canine war hero honored

Posted: Sunday, November 6, 2016 12:00 pm |
By DAVID HOLSTED [email protected] | 0 comments
Canine war hero honored
While scouting an Afghan village in May 2012, Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald sent one of his soldiers to check out a house. While inside, the soldier encountered an insurgent, who fired his weapon. Hit four times at point blank, the soldier still managed to subdue the enemy, thereby saving the lives of McDonald and the other men in the unit.
That soldier was Layka, a Belgian Malinois (a breed known for its inexhaustible energy) bomb-sniffing military dog. She survived her wounds, after enduring seven hours of surgery and the amputation of one of her legs.
Since that time, Layka has been recognized numerous times for her service. McDonald, her handler, owes Layka a special debt of gratitude.
“On the day Layka got shot in May, instantly I felt the sense of urgency to fix her,” McDonald told National Geographic magazine. “I owe this dog every moment I have from here on out with my son, with my mother, with my family. I owe her everything.”
McDonald is a Harrison native and attended Harrison schools from 1998 to 2005. He is the son of Lisa Sparrow and Phillip Moon and the grandson of Rick and Gloria Sparrow. McDonald entered the Army in 2005 and became an Airborne Ranger with the 1/75th Ranger Battalion. He was deployed eight times to Iraq and Afghanistan where he earned the Purple Heart and other awards.
In October, in a show airing on the Hallmark Channel, Layka won her category of Military Hero Dog and was one of the eight finalists in the 2016 American Hero Dog Awards.
Layka was medically retired from the Army in August, 2012, and McDonald successfully petitioned to adopt her. He encountered some opposition from some people who said Layka would be too violent from her time at war to return to civilian life.
“She saved my life, that’s why I’m here,” said McDonald in a short film produced by National Geographic. “So I owed it to her to save her life. That’s why I adopted her, and that’s why I fought so hard to adopt her even though people say she’s too aggressive.”
Layka now lives in Kansas with McDonald and his family.
“If you bring them into a home environment, they will become a product of that environment,” McDonald said. “All animals learn to adapt and survive.”
Layka was featured on the cover of National Geographic in June 2014. She was part of a story titled “Hero Dogs, A Soldier’s Best Friend.”
Last year, Layka was in jeopardy of losing her remaining front paw. Thanks to the intervention of friends in Oklahoma, she was able to get treatment at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Hospital.
On Nov. 12, Layka will be honored during a University of Oklahoma football game.
Layka and McDonald have appeared on national television on Good Morning America, and later this month, Layka will be featured in an episode of the History Channel’s “Live to Tell” series. The show describes the portrayal of the triumphs and sacrifices of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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