Tom Ricks prints an e-mail from Army Capt. Michael Cummings:

What sticks with me most about war dogs was the lengths officers, NCOs and soldiers would go to keep them out of harm's way. I've seen Sergeants Major and Lieutenant Colonels risk their careers over their favorite dogs. About a week before we were supposed to leave country, word came down to get rid of all the animals on every FOB. They weren't authorized, we were told, so they had to go before the new unit came in. The day our full-bird colonel and his replacement came on a battlefield tour, suddenly all the dogs were gone.

I assumed they had been taken to the trash pit and executed, the fate of many dogs downrange. But as soon as the chopper took off, bounding around a corner were the mini-pack: Mama, K2 and the dog with no name.

One of the most vivid if vague memories of my childhood was my grandfather recounting how as a soldier in the British army in India, he felt he had to shoot his beloved dog before he left for home. He feared the dog would be mistreated if left to fend for himself, and did what he had to do. I cannot imagine doing such a thing. But I do remember being deeply shocked by this story at the time, one of my earliest premonitions that life is cruel, that choices are hard, that this tough old veteran (he used to order his children to chew their food a specific number of times) was also a man of deep love beneath.

And, of course, it just confirms my belief that the love between dog and human is real and deep and precious. Even in war. Perhaps especially in war.

Oh, and Washington.

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