As a dog handler in the Marines, it was Jose Armenta’s [pictured on the right] job to walk ahead of his platoon and search for roadside bombs with his dog, Zenit, a German shepherd trained for explosives detection and patrol.
In 2011, while searching for IEDs planted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, a bomb they didn’t detect exploded and Armenta was thrown 20 feet. He narrowly survived, but both his legs had to be amputated above the knee. Zenit was uninjured and redeployed with a new handler. Jose Armenta talks with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about missing Zenit after the IED explosion —-
"After I was injured, my dog was assigned to another dog handler and they went on and completed the six-month deployment, because I was at the half way point, about three months, when I was injured. And so Zenit went on for another three months doing missions with another dog handler [in Afghanistan]. …
It was surprising because, up until that point, I had made sure I was emotionally detached from Zenit. I tried to keep it strictly professional since I knew it was very likely that one of us would be injured performing our job. … But after the fact, after I was out of the battlefield and recovering and found out that he was assigned to another handler, I was angry. I didn’t want him in danger anymore; I wanted him back home with me. And so that’s when it became evident that my emotions were evolving from a professional relationship to more of a partnership and a friendship.”
In this image from the June issue of National Geographic, Jose Armenta, and his wife, Eliana, relax with their Boston terriers, Oreo and Sassy, and Zenit, a German shepherd they adopted from the Marines.
Photo via © Adam Ferguson/National Geographic