2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Let loose the blogs of war

Published: June 20, 2014, 5:33 pm, by interns

A man without even a healthy fear of dogs volunteers for a mauling 

By Nick Beadleston 

Gazette Local News/ Military Affairs Reporter Intern, Summer 2014

Staring down a deadline is a scary thing. Staring down a 77-pound Belgian Malinois with nothing but carnage on his mind is something else entirely.

Wednesday I swung by Peterson Air Force Base to witness the installation’s military working dogs and their handlers in action.

Things escalated quickly.

Here are pictures of all our dogs.

Here are our dogs in their kennels.

Here is a leashed dog in the training yard.

Here, you might want to put this on.

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There I was, grinning like an idiot, garbed in a thick black jacket which was, in theory, bite-proof.

Several yards away was Staff Sgt. Keenan Mondragon and his dog Uumbro. The repeated first letters in the dog’s name signified he was from Lackland Air Force Base, the military K9 capital of the country, a riveting fact that was doing me little good at the moment.

Staff Sgt. Kaup was standing next to me, informing me on how to stand.

“You might want to pull your fingers in a little further. When he pulls you go with it. I wouldn’t fight him much.”

I became keenly aware that the protective “suit” covered, at best, 45 percent of my body.

“What ensures he goes for the suit parts?” I asked Kaup.

“Eh, they’re normally pretty good about that,” he said. “Maybe try and wave your arm, give him a better target.”

More than less than reassured, I yelled to Mondragon, “Hey Sarge try and keep him away from the money maker,” and pointed to my face.

“Whenever you’re ready,” he yelled back.

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Uumbro covered the distance faster than I could whisper “oh f**k” under my breath.

I’ve hit the ground after jumping out of C-130s, been flipped by a bull in Pamplona (after the Run, not during) and lost a fair amount of fights that my mouth started. I figured I knew what was coming.

I was incorrect.

Uumbro slammed into me with a force I wouldn’t have considered possible for an animal his size. Not only did he knock the wind out of me, a process largely facilitated by a rogue paw directly to the groin, but he also sapped my will to resist.

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I went down hard, laughing inappropriately all the way.

Mondragon walked over as Uumbro was quite literally dragging me in slow circles, with the occasional violent head shake designed to separate my rotator cuff from the rest of me.

“Let me know when you’re good,” Mondragon said looking down.

“Yeah, I think I’ve pretty much got it,” I said, looking up.

With one curt command from Mondragon, the crushing pressure was gone from my arm and the bladder-loosening snarl was gone from my ear.

Getting to my feet I looked over and saw a happy, slobbery Uumbro pressed against his handler’s leg. It was like a completely different animal staring back at me from the one who had just taken me down.

I really had to suppress the reflex to reach out and pet him.

Learning life lessons has never been my strong suit.

 

Nick Beadleston is a communications undergraduate at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, who, by all accounts, should never be allowed to leave the house.

Follow him on Twitter @nickbeadleston. Like him on Facebook. And remind his mother she did a damn fine job. 

He would like to thank the outstandingly professional handlers of the 21st Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog section for taking the time to answer his questions and keep him and his money maker from ever being in real danger. (Right?)