Canine of the Year: Military Dog Reportedly Assisted in bin Laden Raid

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Getty Images / TORSTEN SILZ

Two soldiers and dogs of the 26th airborne brigade of the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) rappel down from a helicopter

Accompanying the Navy Seals who completed the bin Laden mission was a faithful four-legged fighter. The trained military dog, either a German Shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, was attached to a human Seal and lowered from a helicopter into the compound. Wearing canine armor, he went along to sniff out hidden explosives or, if necessary, find a secret room of bin Laden’s.

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 heroic animals)

Canines often play a significant role in military operations as they can crawl into small spaces, find enemy soldiers and report back unnoticed with TV footage from a camera attached to their heads. Their primary functions “are finding explosives and conducting searches and patrols,” Maj. Wes Ticer, a spokesman for the United States Special Operations Command, told the New York Times, but  Ticer said that many times dogs save “the lives of the Special Operations Forces with whom they operate.”

PICTURES: The Navy Seals in Action

The NYT reports that according to Gen. David H. Petraus, commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, that dogs are useful because “the capability they bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine.”

German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois dogs have the skills best-suited to the job (like sense of smell, courage, athleticism, endurance and intelligence) and thus are most commonly used in the military. It just goes to show a dog is a man’s best friend — as long as he’s on your side.

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 militant animals)

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of bin Laden’s hideout)

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