At home, Hogg continued to work with Duco, keeping him active and sharp. Little did he know that his wife was offering this specialized combat assault dog a few cushy pet perks.
She introduced him to goldfish crackers and table scraps. He quickly developed a reputation as “the heater,” because his hot breath was always on the family’s legs in newfound anticipation of tasty handouts.
Hogg’s wife bought Duco toys, which he loved, particularly his highly prized squeaky moose. He also spent a good bit of time on the couch. He even slept in the couple’s bed, if he wanted. The dog fully embraced home life. As Hogg explained, “He earned it.”
In November of 2020, Duco was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, in his rear right leg. Veterinarians felt they might be able to prolong and improve his quality of life by amputating the leg and administering chemotherapy. Hogg and his wife made the difficult decision to proceed with amputation and chemo, hoping for the best.
This bought the family over half a precious year together with their beloved dog.
Sadly, seven months after his surgery, Duco’s cancer returned, and this legendary, heroic and brave dog succumbed to the disease on July 5, 2021.
Rick believes that Duco is the gold standard upon which all other combat assault dogs are judged. In Rick’s words, he would have a “fleet of Ducos” if he could.
This K-9 and his handler have built a legacy together, and Hogg wants to ensure that Duco’s service to our country will never be forgotten. When asked if he believes Duco is in a better place, Hogg replies emphatically, “100 percent, dogs go to heaven!”
We think he’s right, and we are grateful that he was willing to share the life and accomplishments of his awesome dog with the world.
ATP COO comment: I cannot even express the gratitude that I have for the war dogs that fought by my side and protected us. Many of us are walking around today because they gave the ultimate sacrifice.
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Super Scout and Regan’s K-9 Hero of the Week: Combat Assault Dog Duco
This week, we want to memorialize an outstanding K-9 that worked as a Combat Assault Dog for U.S. Army Special Operations Forces.
Dutch Shepherd Duco served with handler Rick Hogg, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom from 2012-2017.
After losing his Belgian Malinois, Marco, in 2012, Hogg was given the unit’s spare or “float” dog, Duco. Hogg’s first thought after losing Marco was that he didn’t want this other dog. Anyone well-familiar with both breeds will appreciate their personality differences. But Duco quickly grew on him.
Before long, handler and dog were completely bonded. Duco’s ability to switch gears from laid back, chilling out in the kennel, to “game on,” made him uniquely effective. As Hogg explains, “His drive sold me.”
“He was an absolute beast on the battlefield,” he said. It was a perfect pairing. “Duco was an extension of me.”
Just six months after they were paired up, during a nighttime raid in Afghanistan, Duco and Hogg fell approximately 30 feet from a helicopter. Hogg was knocked unconscious, but Duco seemed to survive unscathed.
The handler/K-9 relationship is hard to define. Handlers know all too well the risks these remarkable dogs take when they head out into harm’s way. Coming to terms with that reality is never easy. Hogg drew on his faith every time Duco was tasked to venture into dangerous territory. He said a simple prayer:
“God, bring him back to me.”
And He always did.
As a dual-purpose K-9, Duco was trained to detect and to bite. He had a knack for finding bad guys where human eyes failed. He knew how to detect explosives long before the men he worked with could. This dog quickly became the one everyone hoped to have working with them. He was revered as a force-multiplying K-9 security blanket.
It is because of Duco and dogs like him that many soldiers are alive today. Hogg speaks with emotion and reverence about Duco’s heroic contributions to the fight:
“I’m here on this planet because of that dog.”
Years after the helicopter incident, Rick assessed that Duco may be suffering from some long-term injuries he sustained in the fall. He made the decision to retire Duco, allowing him to live out his days in the comfort of his own home.
In a serendipitous coincidence, Hogg was scheduled to retire at the same time that Duco was wrapping up his military career.
Prior to 2000, most military K-9s were euthanized when taken out of service. Thanks to a bill passed by Congress, these heroic dogs were given a second chance at living out their twilight years in a comfortable home environment.
Fortunately, Duco was well-suited for family life and made an excellent transition. Not all war dogs are able to do this, but Duco was special.
Both Hogg and Duco were able to retire together.
As U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan, Special Forces Operators Reflect on Their K9 Partners
Jason Piccolo Posted: Aug 14, 2021 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Source: AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
The immense noise pulsing from the helicopter's rotors and engine washed out all sounds. The Special Operations Forces (SOF) operators stood ready to launch out of the Blackhawk's doors as soon as they touched down. On that helicopter, nestled next to one of the operators, stood a calm, ready-to-launch, four-legged fur warrior. A force multiplier our enemies in the Global War on Terror sometimes feared more than the operators. For decades, specially trained K9s have teamed with our nation's top-tier operators to wage war on terror abroad.
The four-legged fur missile can be seen on our couches at night as our best friends, but in the war, the SOF K9 was an absolute force to be reckoned with. As selective for human operators to enter the SOF counter-terror unit, it is said that only 10 percent of the dogs make the cut in selection.
The combat K9s stand out from their police counterparts based on situational locations; combat versus policing. I spoke with Kelly Roby, a former U.S. Army Ranger and SOF operator with over 300 direct-action combat missions. Roby participated in the U.S. Army's pilot program to partner K9s with operators. Roby learned the difference between police and combat K9s. "To be respectful of the police world, it is mostly environmental, from tracking to suspect apprehension. Most [police K9s] are close in and in a permissive environment. The military side is non-permissive; they travel long distances by helicopter or on foot to a target. So they have environmental exposure that most police K9s don't have, from the level of noise from a helicopter to jumping from planes to breaching doors with explosives to flashbangs," Roby said.
When seconds count between life and death, the war dog is there, even paying the ultimate sacrifice to save their human partners. Roby knew the life-saving value of his partner when seconds counted, "They are a live fighting distraction. Their noses are their mechanism for finding the bad guys. Giving us alerts from a distance to their [enemy] presence. They force the enemy to think about something other than the people coming through their door, giving us that extra second of tactical advantage."
A K9 uses roughly 35 percent of its brain for smelling. The K9's ability to use their built-in detection device, i.e., their nose, makes them an absolute force multiplier.
The K9's ability to sniff out and detect explosives far outweighs what is available in a machine-operated detector. The government currently deploys handheld explosives detectors that require the user to be inches away from a suspected explosive device. Inches in a controlled environment such as an airport are much different than in combat. Inches on a battlefield can equal death, and the K9 does not need to be tethered to its handler to search out explosives as a handheld device does.
The SOF K9s don't stop at explosive detection; in fact, the ability to seek out and find a hidden fighter is where the K9 dominates. For example, during a special forces raid to track down a top ISIS leader, an SOF K9 cornered the suicide-vest wearing terrorist resulting in an explosive detonation. The SOF K9 almost certainly saved lives that day.
During the past decades, SOF operators recognized what they had available to them in their K9s; not just a force multiplier but one that can think independently. Operators attached specially designed combat video cameras to their K9s. The operator released the tether on their K9s and watched the screen as the K9 searched outwardly hidden locations, providing critical intelligence.
Post-mission, the K9 became the support the hardened operators needed. Roby witnessed his teammates bond with their K9, "The emotional side, I didn't realize this until later, is like deploying with your pet, your connection to home. I found a lot of guys hanging out later with the dog around. There is an emotional aspect of having a dog overseas. They are a de-stressor and part of the team."
Rick Hogg, who spent 29 years in SOF, including being a K9 handler, built a special bond with his K9, Duco, "He [Duco] was an extension of me. That's the part that is sometimes hard for people to understand. His ability to shift gears was absolutely incredible. A [helicopter] rotor pitch changed, and he was ready to go. It was game time." Hogg elaborated on his special connection with Duco, "My first dog tried to test the waters, Duco never tested me. Originally I got Duco after I lost my first dog. I didn't want him at first, but we quickly built a bond." He continued, "Duco was the gold standard when it came to SOF K9s. If I could clone him, I would, he was that good."
The SOF K9s bore the battle alongside the operators. Hogg said a silent prayer every time he released Duco to work, "When I cut him off my body, he was tethered to me, I always said 'God, please bring him back to me." When unleashed alongside the operators, Hogg said, "They don't understand fear, they are out there running with their pack, and I will protect them at any cost."
The decades-long GWOT saw numerous K9s leaving duty overseas for stateside adoption by their operator handlers. Both Roby and Hogg agree the K9s should be spoiled and integrated into their new pack, a loving family that will take care of them. Hogg told me, "When Duco came home, he now had a place on the couch, a place on the bed, we spoiled him. He had more toys and stuff than you can imagine; he earned them. I am here today because of him. There are a lot of human beings here today because of those dogs." Hogg went on to say, "At the end of the day, you cannot beat a K9s nose with technology." Technology simply cannot outweigh the benefit of these four-legged heroes. The SOF K9 will not be replaced anytime soon with what is available in the tech world. A K9 remains an absolute force multiplier for SOF teams.
Dr. Jason Piccolo worked in federal law enforcement for over 21 years and is a former U.S. Army Infantry Captain (Operation Iraqi Freedom). He hosts the podcast, The Protectors.
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In Honor of Duco
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ABOUT COMBAT ASSAULT DOG DUCO
Combat Assault Dog Duco was a Dutch born, KMPV titled Dutch Shepherd. KNPV is short for Koninklijke Nederlandse Politiehond Vereniging, which is Dutch for 'Royal Dutch Police Dog Association'. The system began in the early 1900s in Holland in order to bring dog trainers together to establish good quality working dog standards.
Duco was a duel purpose US Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) K9 that served honorably from 2012-2017 and deployed in support of combat operations for Operation Enduring Freedom.
The selection for a Combat Assault Dog (CAD) results in a 90% plus wash-out rate among some of the world's most elite canines. These CADs learn to detect human odors specific to enemy combatants, numerous explosive compounds, and clear a structure searching out Military Aged Males while bypassing children. These K9s can jump tandem with their handlers from aircraft, be fast-roped out of a helicopter, and lead the way during infils to detect ambushes and IEDs. SOF K9s have learned to switch from assault mode to detection during combat operations.
In 2012, while part of a helicopter assault force conducting a nighttime raid on an enemy compound in Afghanistan, Duco and I fell from our helicopter approximately 30 feet while infilling on the objective. I was knocked unconscious but Duco seemed to be fine. I had him checked out and nothing seemed to be wrong with Duco. Years later, I started to notice some changes in Duco’s physical abilities I believe stemmed from that fall and he was retired from active duty.
Since separating from active duty Duco has very much enjoyed the retired life with his family. He even has his own social media accounts Instagram @wardoggduco https://www.instagram.com/wardoggduco
and a Facebook account K9 Duco https://www.facebook.com/wardoggDuco/
He has also been a part of some amazing events to include working with 5.11 Tactical, Trigger Time TV, Far Cry 5 and supporting his Dad during the SOF K9 Memorial Service and the reading of “How I Became a K9 Commando”
Duco’s 5.11 Tactical video
Rick Speaking at 2018 SOF K9 Memorial Service
Duco was part of the reading of “How I Became a K9 Commando” at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.
Trigger Time TV - We did a complete season on training a MWD
Duco was also part of training actors for Far Cry 5
Retirement has not come with out its struggles.
In November 2020 Duco was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right rear leg. We made the decision to add longevity and quality of life to Duco and we had his leg amputated.
Unfortunately Combat Assault Dog Duco lost his battle with cancer on 5 July 2021
Our new mission is to educate handlers/owners on osteosarcoma and what to look for in your canine. We want to tell Duco’s story and keep his memory alive and his story of the amputation and chemo treatments. I have become a huge proponent of CBD in K9s and believe the benefits would greatly enhance our MWDs.
I have worked numerous SOF K9s over my career and I can tell you by far Duco is the best one, combat proven and absolutely phenomenal. If I could clone him I would, he is that impressive.