Saving the lives of injured soldiers through complicated surgical procedures in the Afghanistan desert—it’s just another day on the job for Col. Frederick Lough. But when a seriously wounded war dog is carried into his operating room, he is forced to think on his toes.
In September 2012, a bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois working with a Czech handler was near death after a Taliban rocket hit the kennel area. The dog, named Altos, was brought to Lough at Forward Operation Base Shank in Logar province, Afghanistan.
The thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon worked from 1970 to 1987 as a surgeon with the U.S. Army Medical Corps, then returned in 2007 through the U.S. Army Medical Corps Reserves. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan when he was tasked with saving Altos.
The team worked on the stabilizing the dog, including giving him a transfusion donated by an American dog and removing shrapnel from his body. The surgery was documented in a newly released video, shown below. Lough stated that although the team was not trained in performing an operation on a dog, they were determined to save him.
“Perhaps because a dog is a bit of home, if you will, it brought out a very different emotional response by all the physicians participating,” he says in the video.
After the procedure Altos was transported to the U.S. Ramstein base in Germany, where he continued to recover.
In 2014, the Czech Republic Minister of Defense Vlastimil Picek honored Altos in a formal ceremony, awarding him with a signed collar and a bone. He called the dog, "a soldier's irreplaceable friend."