You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

TV special shows glory, trauma of military dogs

Feb. 19, 2013 - 09:27AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 - 09:27AM  |  
This publicity photo provided by Animal Planet shows Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leonard Anderson and his bomb-detecting dog, Azza, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, in Afghanistan. The Animal Planet television special "Glory Hounds" included coverage of Anderson and his team when they embedded four camera crews with frontline troops for six weeks.
This publicity photo provided by Animal Planet shows Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leonard Anderson and his bomb-detecting dog, Azza, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, in Afghanistan. The Animal Planet television special "Glory Hounds" included coverage of Anderson and his team when they embedded four camera crews with frontline troops for six weeks. (Animal Planet via AP)
  • Filed Under
This publicity photo provided by Animal Planet shows a soldier and military working dog last year in Afghanistan. (Animal Planet via AP)

Want to watch?

"Glory Hounds" will air at 8 p.m. ET/PT Thursday and will repeat at 9 a.m. ET/PT Feb. 24.

LOS ANGELES It's been almost seven months since a bomb exploded on a strip of dirt in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leonard Anderson can remember only a reassuring voice.

He has seen the ambush and its aftermath on film, though: The man behind the voice putting a tourniquet on Anderson's leg as a medic tended to the other, listening to his own cries for help and his dog's whines of worry.

The blast that severely wounded the military dog handler was captured on film by one of four camera crews that were embedded with front line troops last year. The voice that reassured him belonged to Craig Constant, a cameraman for Animal Planet's "Glory Hounds" TV special, which will air Thursday.

It took the network a year to get permission to film the two-hour special, which followed the animals into combat zones where insurgents and buried explosives could be around any bend or under any pile of dirt.

Military dogs are prized targets for Taliban insurgents, Anderson said. They sniff out bombs, making safe passage for troops to follow and saving countless lives. The Department of Defense calls each dog a piece of equipment, but Constant says they're much more than that.

"They call them tools, and they are not. They are soldiers. They just have four paws instead of two feet. They walk in front of the platoons. It's a deadly game, and they die all the time. But they save lives by finding IEDs that technology can't find," said Constant, referring to the military terminology for improvised explosive devices.

Anderson became the handler for an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois named Azza when he asked for the job as kennel master at the base in Sperwan Ghar, said the 29-year-old who loves animals.

The breed is among four including Dutch shepherd, German shepherd and Labrador retriever that is commonly used by the military because they are of similar size and temperament, easy to train and enjoy working, said Ron Aiello, president of the U.S. War Dogs Association.

Azza became a military dog when she was 3, and detecting explosives was her specialty, said Anderson.

On the day of the blast, early morning on July 28, Azza and Anderson were about a mile from the base camp. They didn't need to go into the field Anderson's job was to assess daily needs, plot routes and assign teams. But the self-described adrenaline junkie said he couldn't do his job if he didn't know where his men and dogs were headed and what they were facing.

Constant and his sound technician were about 10 feet behind them when the bomb went off. Military experts who examined the blast site said it was activated by remote control, not set off by touch.

But the dog bore the guilt: Constant remembers most vividly the anguished look on her face and her whines.

"Azza just looked at him. She had a human face. She was helpless. She was concerned. She was fixated on him," Constant said.

The explosion knocked the camera out of Constant's hands. He picked it up, planning to film, but dropped it when he saw Anderson.

"I don't know how he survived. There was a 6-foot-by-5-foot crater, and he was right on top of it," said Constant, who suffered ear drum damage and shrapnel wounds. The sound technician was wounded in the leg.

Anderson slipped in and out of consciousness while a medic and Constant, who is a former Marine, worked on his legs. Azza watched and whined.

"The only thing I remember from that day is Craig's voice talking to me telling me to ‘calm down,' ‘be easy,' ‘it's going to be all right,' " Anderson said. "I woke up in Texas, and that's when I asked, ‘Where is my dog?' and ‘What's going on?' "

Anderson doesn't know how many surgeries he had in Afghanistan, Germany and San Antonio, Texas, but he estimates around 20 based on what doctors and relatives have told him. He lost his left forearm and four fingers on his right hand, suffered upper body injuries and lost the skin on both legs.

Azza has been retired and was adopted by Anderson, his wife and their sons, ages 1 and 2. Memories of combat still haunt her, he said.

"She has some pretty bad nightmares, moving, breathing real heavy. I will slowly wake her up. She will get up and pace the house," he said.

Constant believes "Glory Hounds" shows the importance of dogs and their combat work.

"They really showed the truth and consequences of what these guys do. It's sad to watch because the story is told as much as you can tell it in two hours," he said.

His only regret from filming the show was that he didn't have his camera trained on Azza while they were helping Anderson.

"I wish to God I could have shot that. I wish I could have gotten that on film," Constant said. "It would have changed people's ideas about dogs" being viewed as merely equipment or property, he added.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Army Times

This Week's Army Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook