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So... Why Would a Dog Be on Facebook?

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Visit Hank Lopez's Facebook page and you'll find out he's from Newburgh, New York, listens to Metallica and works part time as a beer pong referee.

He's bilingual, getting by in Dutch and English, and is into the TV show Dog Whisperer, which makes plenty of sense because Hank Lopez is a dog.

Roll your eyes, but this three-year-old Facebooking Boston Terrier has 141 friends on the social networking site.

Had I not met Hank, I'd chalk this up as yet another example of how utterly frivolous we have become that a dog would have a Facebook page with 100-plus friends. But after having met Hank, if I were on Facebook I'd totally be friend number 142.

I met Hank and his handler, U.S. Army psychiatrist Capt. Katie Kopp, a month ago at a memorial service for a fallen soldier in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

A rich ebony with patches of white around his nose and chest, Hank immediately stood out. But it wasn't the fact that he walked on all fours that drew my interest or that he was a dog, for crying out loud, at a memorial service in the middle of Afghanistan.

He stood out because this darling canine's primary mission was to love on those grieving soldiers. With nuzzles, nudges, licks and rubs, he did just that, as they came up to him before and after service.

In a place where the only canine types you see are military working dogs that are rightly trained to be mean and surly, or local dogs that U.S. servicemembers are restricted from adopting or even petting, it was surreal to see this spunky terrier in our midst.

As an Army therapy dog, Hank is an official member of 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division's combat stress team, a group of mental wellness professionals. Therapy dogs are specially trained and selected for their work based on their obedience and temperament.

Hank is only one of two morale dogs I know of working among U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan. The other one, Major Timmy, is an affable golden lab and, no surprises here, is on Facebook too.

Hank tactfully helps Capt. Kopp's work, by playfully easing the initial weirdness soldiers may feel talking to a shrink.

The idea is pure genius and I wonder why each combat stress team in theater doesn't tote a Hank or a Major Timmy around, if only as an icebreaker.

Here's a crazy thought: instead of euthanizing dogs in American kennels, let's train 50 of them to be therapy dogs, then ship them to Afghanistan to nuzzle up to stressed out soldiers to remind them that they are loved and appreciated, if only by a pooch.

And if love is indeed what Hank offers troops here... well, no wonder he's on Facebook.