Military working dogs and their handlers can be together 24/7 while deployed. More often than not, the canine warriors eat and work and socialize with their handlers. They sleep in or near their handlers' cots. Some dogs crawl right into their sleeping bags. And on long missions, they can try to catch some winks together in foxholes.
A handler's life is in his dog's nose, and dog's life in his handler's hands. The bond is deep, utterly indescribable, most handlers will tell you.
"You know this dog so well, and he knows you. The dog probably knows you better than your spouse does," says Marine Sergeant Mark Vierig.
Master Chief Scott Thompson, the NCO in charge of dog operations in Afghanistan for a year, agrees. "The bond will pull you through the toughest situations," he says. "I don't think there's anything else in the world that can compare to the bond between a handler and dog."
My new book, Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America's Canine Heroes [Penguin Group, $26.95], opens up the world of military working dogs as never before, shedding new light on every aspect of the military dog world, including these incomparable bonds
Here are some photos dogs in the book, with heartwarming vignettes about their relationships with their handlers.