By Jennifer Hlad
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — There are plenty of working dogs at this massive Marine-built base in Helmand province. But none quite like Joe.
The friendly and always-hungry 6-year-old black Labrador deployed to Afghanistan in June 2012 with the Marines to sniff out bombs. However, his handlers soon realized that the weather, the gunfire and the explosions didn’t agree with Joe. He was deemed unsuitable to work and slated to go home.
Then, he paid a visit to the Concussion Restoration Care Center and Wounded Warrior berthing, and found his calling as a therapy dog, blessed by special permission from U.S. Central Command.
Joe seems to be able to sense who is injured, and how best to interact with that person, his handler and doctors at the facility said. Just last week, he came into the center and made a beeline for the injured Marine, then started giving him kisses, said Navy Lt. Stephanie Reim, a physical therapist at the extended care ward.
When patients are badly hurt, Joe will go to them and maybe lay next to them on a physical therapy table or just cuddle, said Mike Ough, a contractor who maintains replacement IED detector dogs for Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. With other patients, Joe may try to play ball with them, or run next to them on the treadmill during therapy.