From Troublemaker to Hero: The Story of Benno, the War Dog

“He was so aggressive he was kicked out of Afghanistan but that only made his new handler all the more committed to helping him, which he repaid by saving his life”

When U.S. Army Ranger, Julian Trent McDonald, discovered dog handling, he found a new purpose. This video is the story of the love and friendship shared with a war dog with a bad reputation.

Military working dogs have been around since World War 1. They were often used in trench warfare. Soldiers would even attach a note to a dog to transmit messages to each other during combat and have them carry supplies, such as ammo.

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Today, dogs have more roles. They are trained in bombs, weapons, and drug detection and taking down fleeing enemy combatants. To do their job, they are highly trained and aggressive. There are about 600 military dogs in war zones. They eat, sleep, and fight alongside their handers.

Julian Trent McDonald is one such handler. At 29 years old, he had 8 combat deployments during his 6-year military career. He was deployed to Iraq 3 times and Afghanistan 5 times.

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Trent grew up learning to care for animals before caring for himself. His mother taught him to break horses and he learned a great respect for animals from her.

He also loved dogs. He learned how to handle life on a farm with them, sometimes making hard decisions about the dogs that he loved, such as when they attacked livestock.

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To avoid encounters like that, he learned to train dogs. That training followed him to the military, where he learned to train Army Ranger military dogs, and that’s where he found his purpose.

There he received his first assignment. He was assigned a dog named Benno who had a reputation for not being the “most stellar” dog. Benno had even been kicked out of Afghanistan for biting. For a new handler, Benno was more than a handful and challenged him daily.

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But Trent didn’t give up despite his aggression and they continued to work together. Then the day came that he was in combat with Benno for the first time and that’s when Benno bit him for making a mistake while they were taking gunfire.

After the bite, Benno was distraught. He refused to eat. So, Trent decided that he was going to start over with Benno’s training so that they could learn to trust each other, and the rest of the platoon could learn to trust the dog.

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Slowly, Benno and Trent made great strides. Benno began to understand what being part of a platoon meant and the guys began to slowly trust the dog with such a nasty reputation.

Once they established trust, Benno’s reputation changed. He matured into a brave dog that was determined to do his job and was fearless about carrying out his mission. Benno began to love the troops and they began to love him back.

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Benno proved to be invaluable on the battlefield and had more experience than many of the troops. He lived to protect and serve and in the end, gave up his life to save his fellow soldiers from gunfire.

Trent and the troops lost their best friend but thanks to him, they were alive. They took turns carrying Benno and thanking him. It was on Benno’s final and 42nd enemy bite when he was killed in the line of duty by enemy gunfire.

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We pay tribute to K9 Benno and thank him for his service. Please feel free to share his story.