By Pfc. Tyler Maulding
Multi-National Division - Center
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – A military working dog saved his owners life while on a routine mission near Najaf, Iraq recently.
Spc. Joaquin Mello, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 98th Military Police Company, K-9 handler, a Santa Cruz, Calif. native, says he will never forget the day his working dog, Sgt. Bodo, a six year old patrols, explosives detection German Sheppard, saved his life.
"It scared the crap out of me," Mello said. "I started thinking about it and I was like, 'wow, my dog just saved my life.' It was a scary moment for me, like the war actually hit me. The war became real in that moment."
Mello and an Air Force K-9 handler went on a route clearing mission near the town of Najaf, Iraq. After clearing the route, Mello and the Airman were asked to clear some suspicious piles of rubble around the convoy. Mello and the other handler split the area in two sections, Mello cleared in front of the convoy while the Airman cleared behind. Mello and Bodo got out of their mine resistant ambush protected vehicle and began clearing the piles. While they were searching, Bodo started acting peculiarly.
"I had Bodo on the retractable leash and while we were searching he started to get a little bit behind me so I tried to coach him ahead of me but he wouldn't go and I ended up getting in front of him," said Mello. "He was showing great change in his behavior."
Mello bent over with his head close to the ground and ordered Bodo to seek. Bodo wouldn't listen and Mello soon learned why.
"All of a sudden he jerked sharply behind me and him jerking the leash jerked my head up," said Mello. "I heard a whiz and a loud ping like metal hitting rock. Sand started kicking up in my face and I'm waving my hands because I can't see because I have dust in my eyes. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks-- someone just shot at me," said Mello.
When the gunners realized what had happened, they yelled at Mello to get into the MRAP. Mello, dazed with sand in his eyes, received help from a fellow Soldier to get into the vehicle. Once inside, they asked him where he thought the round had come from, but he told them he didn't know, he hadn't heard the shot.
"That was a scary day for me; the bullet was only a foot or so in front of my head," said Mello "If Bodo hadn't pulled me back it would have hit me right in the head."
Mello attributes Bodo's actions that day to his keen sense of hearing.
"He can hear things we can't. He will hear things before I hear them too, he lifts his head up, his ears perk up," said Mello. "It's possible he did hear the round and thought 'dad's in trouble' and pulled me back. It's not important to me how he did it. All I know is Bodo, without a doubt, saved my life that day."
When Mello returned to his unit, leadership asked him if he wanted to be put in for a Combat Action Badge, but Mello said no. "I'm not wounded or anything," said Mello. "I didn't do anything spectacular. I just did my job. Bodo is the one who did something amazing."