Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald would never leave a brother behind, which was why he wouldn’t let anyone tell him that he couldn’t adopt the bomb-sniffing dog who saved his life.
While serving in Afghanistan, McDonald sent Layka into a building where she was shot four times point-blank by enemy forces. Though the resilient pup was severely injured, she managed to still subdue the shooter, protecting her handler and the other servicemen involved in the mission, National Geographic reported.
So when McDonald returned home, he was eager to adopt Layka, who had her front leg amputated as a result of her injuries. He faced a tremendous about of push back, as many veterans do in the process. Some claimed she was too aggressive to live with a family, but McDonald disagreed and eventually won the right to bring her home.
"On the day Layka got shot in May, instantly I felt the sense of urgency to fix her," McDonald told National Geographic. "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."
Though military dogs put their lives on the line for their country, it wasn’t until 2000 -- with the enactment of Robby’s Law -- that it became legal to adopt military dogs. Prior to the passing of the law, these dogs were euthanized after completing their service, according to PBS.
"I think we owe them at least through retirement a happy loving home so that they get to be a dog," Daphna Nachminovitch, vice president of cruelty investigations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told the outlet.
McDonald couldn’t agree more.
He told National Geographic that Layka -- who still helps train military dogs -- has adapted to her suburban environment and doesn’t even have any qualms with her new baby brother who likes to pull at her ears.
"If the dogs put the time for the country," McDonald said, "then the country owes it to them to put the time into them."