Sgt Maple and I went through the same military working dog handler’s course at Lackland Air Force base. I’ll never forget the first time he decoyed. We had been in class for about a month and a half and everyone had been taught the basics of decoying and started practicing. Everyone except Maple. Ben’s training dog was handler aggressive so to counter it Ben spent the time trying to build better rapport with his dog while the rest of the class decoyed for eachother in training. No one noticed that he never decoyed.
We had a beast of a training dog in our class named Chaos. Chaos was a prototype Belgian Malinois. He was one of the hardest hitting dogs I had ever seen. A big, strong, athletic dog that seemed to be a perfect working dog. However he had a difficult time certifying as a working dog because he consistently failed two key areas. He would not stop biting when commanded to, and he wouldn’t stop pursuing the suspect when commanded, he would keep going to get the bite and then they had a hard time getting him off the bite. If you ever decoyed for this dog you felt like a train wreck afterward and you certainly would not be standing up anymore.
Well our instructor asked Ben to decoy for Chaos one day not knowing Ben had not practiced decoying before. Ben didn’t mention he never decoyed because he figured it was simple. The only gear he used was a bite sleeve he put on his left arm. As Ben took off facing away from us he ran at half speed. He never looked back to see the dog coming at him he just ran at half speed with his back completely turned thinking the dog was trained to bite the gear and not the actual person.
Chaos was released and shot away like a bullet across the field-seriously, if there was a dog I thought that could go through a brick wall it would be him. As we watch we are saying quietly “present the sleeve” thinking Maple was going to present the sleeve just before Chaos jumped. The sleeve was never presented and Chaos hit him at full speed right in the middle of his back-direct hit.
Maple flew a good fifteen feet or so forward with Chaos’ jaws locked in his back. In unison we all started yell the command to release “out! out! out!.” But Chaos’ number one problem was not releasing on commmand and he stayed locked onto Maple. Maple finally had the sense to lift his arm up with the sleeve and shake it and Chaos ended up transitioning onto the sleeve releasing the flesh in his back.
He had hit Maple so hard we thought he might be seriously injured. However, other than a few canine holes and cuts he was ok. Once we found out he was alright, we laughed about it for the rest of the day-actually the rest of the three months we were there… Priceless
Obviously Maple has come a long way since then. He has done multiple tours in Iraq and has established himself as a premier handler in the Marines. He is also the recipient of a purple heart after taking shrapnel through his throat when a raodside bomb detonated next to his vehicle. I visited him before I left Camp Pendleton and he showed me a picture of him and about a dozen Marines he worked with while in Iraq. He mentioned out of all those Marines in the picture, he is the only one still alive today. Semper Fi