Wanted by the Taliban: ‘The Dog Whisperer’ and Treo
This war had become intensely personal for Treo and me. He's a black Labrador-spaniel cross. He's a sturdy, loyal, cheeky, stubborn miracle of a dog and he'd proved our greatest defence against Taliban bomb makers. And that had made them hate him with a vengeance. The Taliban commanders had ordered their men to "get the black dog".
Dave Heyhoe | All About Treo
Its All About Treo: Life and War with the Worlds Bravest Dog:
This is the incredible true story of the unbreakable bond forged between Treo, the world’s most highly decorated dog, and his handler Sgt. Dave Heyhoe, whilst doing the most dangerous job on earth – sniffing out bombs in Afghanistan.
Dave, known to his fellow soldiers as ‘the Dog Whisperer’ and Treo were sent forwards, alone and unprotected, to detect the Taliban’s murderous IEDs.
Soon soldiers refused to patrol certain areas unless accompanied by Treo, and the pressure on the duo became ever more intense.
Dave and Treo would realise they needed each other more than they could have ever imagined.
It is a story full of tragedy and triumph, pathos and laughter, as one man and his best friend dare all to ensure that no lives are lost.
ARMS and explosives search dog Treo has saved countless lives in Afghanistan. His handler David Heyhoe tells his story.
Dave explains in the book that he was never able to have children due to a low sperm count and I am not sure if he was ever married because, despite being half way through the book, he has not yet mentioned a wife. However he admits that Treo is like his own child and he would do anything to protect him from harm, even sacrificing his own life – pretty much what any parent would do for a child. Frequently when out on searches they do come under attack by snipers, who seem determined to kill Treo, recognising how valuable he is to the army and how he is a massive obstacle to them achieving their objectives – which is to blow up enemy soldiers.
Treo cannot wear any protective armour because the heat in Afghanistan is too fierce and his fur coat alone is enough to cause severe dehydration. Dave and Treo are always out in front when they are on patrol; the other soldiers stay well back until they know the area is clear of explosives. This puts both Dave and Treo in a very vulnerable position as they become easy targets for snipers. Dave states that he has to be totally focused on what his dog is doing so he can detect any changes in Treo’s body language or behaviour that suggests he has found some sort of explosive device. When he suspects Treo may have discovered something he calls him back immediately to his side, so Treo does not accidently trigger any devices that he may have uncovered.
Excerpt: Its all about Treo
SETTING off into the dawn sunlight, Treo and I are out front doing the lonely walk. We dog handlers say that emotions run up leash and down again. We had just lost our first soldier - killed by a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) - and Treo could sense that I wanted payback.
Treo was hyper-alert and raring to go. It was a good thing. We'd been out for several days now and the Taliban would know the paths we'd use to get back to base. They would more than likely have sown them with a fresh crop of IEDs.
Treo is an arms explosives search dog, part of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC). We were embedded with the Royal Irish Regiment in Afghanistan and the Rangers had come to see Treo as their "dog soldier". They had even given him one of their green shamrock flashes for luck. I had sewn it on to his search harness as we would need all the luck we could get.
This war had become intensely personal for Treo and me. He's a black Labrador-spaniel cross. He's a sturdy, loyal, cheeky, stubborn miracle of a dog and he'd proved our greatest defence against Taliban bomb makers. And that had made them hate him with a vengeance.
The Taliban commanders had ordered their men to "get the black dog". Every time we came out leading a patrol they'd yell over their radios: "The black dog is coming out! The black dog is coming out! Get ready!" If they were so hell-bent on killing my best friend I was sure as hell going to try to nab a few of them.
Before giving Treo a flash of his tennis ball and the "seek on" command - which lets him know he's on the search - I'd shown him a photo of the Taliban commander we were out to capture.
"That's the geezer we're after, lad. If you see him give a good bark and go grab him by the trouser leg, OK?" WE PUSHED ahead, Treo's muzzle swinging as he hoovered up the scent. A dog's nose is up to a thousand times more sensitive than ours; they can sniff out the bombs.
The bond between us is so close that Treo searches off-leash. He roams freely, following his nose. I talk to him constantly: "This way, good lad, up and over that ditch, mind your paws… Good laaaaad."
Back at base we share a kennel. I spend hours chatting to him, going over what bombs we've found that day or the missions that are coming up. I brief him just as I get briefed by the Ranger company commanders.
Some of the Rangers asked me who I was chatting to in my kennel.
I told them it was Treo. I told them he's the world's greatest listener. At first they thought maybe their dog guy was cracked. Not any more.
We reached a narrow track leading into the Taliban commander's village. I was tense as hell, sweat pouring down my back. Suddenly Treo's head flicked right and he was gone.
He shot through an arched doorway leading into a mud-walled compound. I freaked out. I'd lost sight of my beloved dog - the one the Taliban had vowed to capture or to kill.
I sprinted down the path yelling for him to come back. I had images in my head of the Taliban stuffing Treo in a sack and darting out the rear.
There was a burst of squawking and a cloud of feathers filled the air. An instant later Treo's head appeared. He gave me a cheeky look: "Hey, check this out dad!" He showed me what he had in his mouth. It was the head of a chicken.
The Ranger lads behind us dissolved into laughter. After the heart-pounding fear of losing my dog I couldn't help laughing too.
Some have accused me of being a lazy handler because I'm not always barking orders or punishing Treo. They don't have a clue. I don't ever want to stop him from being a free-spirited and willful dog. I need him to keep going out there into the heat and the danger.
I need him to do that for the unbreakable bond between us. And you never win a dog's trust and loyalty by yelling and hitting - you only ever win it with love.
With Treo and me it was love at first sight. A family that couldn't handle their wild ball of black puppy fluff donated him to the RAVC. By the time he was fully grown he had earned a fearsome reputation.
He was a legendary black beast who would apparently bite your hand off as soon as look at you. He loved to challenge who was boss. He sounded rough, boisterous and a rebel. He sounded a lot like me.
IWAS intrigued. I went to visit his kennel expecting a snarling whirlwind of white teeth and black fur. I told myself to show no fear so I knelt down and got eyeto-eye. He stared at me for several seconds then wandered over and licked me on the nose.
I vowed then that I'd get Treo and that was the start of the bond between us - the one that forms the basis of the dog-handler relationship.
Out in Afghanistan it saved countless lives.
Shortly after Treo's chicken fight we were searching a dirt road and Treo stopped dead. He "aired-up", his muzzle lifted to sample the air and check the source of the scent.
Then he fixed an Afghan several yards ahead with his stare. He flashed me an intense look: that guy is the source of the bomb.
We had never had a suicide bomber before but in that instant I knew. He was making a beeline for Treo so as to blow up my dog. His hand went inside his robe. I didn't have the time to shoot him.
I dived forward using my bulk and my body armour to shield Treo. The blast swept over us leaving nothing but a tattered Afghan robe fluttering in the smoke and dust where the bomber had been.
Thanks to that close understanding, that sixth sense we share, Treo and I had survived.
By the end of our six-month tour in September 2008 we had lost just the one man under our watch.
Near the end of the tour Treo and I were blown up again. Treo was lame so I had to call him off the search. That was how our patrol stumbled on to an IED, the one that killed Ranger Justin Cupples.
I blamed myself for his death. But Treo pulled me out of the darkness. My dog told me to get back on the search for the sake of all the Rangers. It was Treo who got me back doing the lonely walk......
There's a book about this you can buy, It's All About Treo by David Heyhoe (H)
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