Caught in a firefight in Afghanistan, this heroic dog sacrificed her body to save her beloved handler. Meet Layka, a four-year-old Belgian Malinois, who engaged an enemy combatant during a firefight in an Afghan village in 2012. She bravely attacked the enemy soldier, only to be shot by an AK-47 at close range four times in the chest and shoulder. Her actions saved the life of her handler, Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald, and the army squad. In return, McDonald has given Layka a forever home, protecting her as she once did for him.
After seeing Layka get shot, McDonald brought her to the army's extraction point where doctors immediately began working on her. She was then flown to the nearest base where she underwent surgery and had to have her right leg amputated. After the first surgery, Layka was transported to Germany where subsequent operations were done to reconstruct and repair her triceps and shoulder.
Layka was officially retired from military service, and McDonald, who had formed a strong bond with the dog, filled out the necessary paperwork to adopt her and bring her home for good. This process turned out to be more difficult that McDonald anticipated because some people within the military's administration believed that Layka would not be able to transition to civilian life. They thought she would be too aggressive.
Ultimately, McDonald won, and he repaid Layka's service to him by saving her life. “She saved my life, that’s why I’m here. So I owed it to her to save her life,” McDonald said. “That’s why I adopted her, and that’s why I fought so hard to adopt her even though people say she’s too aggressive.”
“If you bring them into a home environment, they will become a product of that environment,” said McDonald. “All animals learn to adapt and survive.”
Layka has indeed adapted and survived, making her transition to the McDonald home with relative ease. She still freezes up when she hears firecrackers or loud sounds, but otherwise, she has done well in her new home.
In particular, Layka has become fast friends with Liam, McDonald's young son. 'Her excitement brought me to tears. She was the sole reason why I was living and breathing and able to come home to my son and wife," states McDonald.
In 2016, Layka was awarded the American Humane Military Hero Award, and she more than deserved it. Congratulations, Layka! Thank you and Sgt. McDonald for your service, and we hope you both have a happy life together.
Layka has been featured in HBO's short film "War Dog: A Soldier's Best Friend." Watch Layka in the video below by National Geographic, then share her heroism with your family and friends on Facebook.