Three-legged military dog Layka just went skydiving with her handler Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald after saving his life during a 2012 tour in Afghanistan.
While sniffing out a building for bombs, Layka was ambushed by an enemy combatant and shot four times before attacking and subduing her assailant, saving the lives of the Army Special Forces unit entering right behind her.
341st Squadron Commander Major Jason Harris described Layka’s actions as heroic.
“She was shot up a couple times and still proceeded to attack the person that was shooting her. That can tell you that dog means serious business,” Harris told Texas Public Radio.
But Layka’s bravery came with a cost: during surgery for her wounds, Layka’s front right leg was amputated. McDonald said he felt like it was his duty to take Layka in and care for her, so he adopted the dog.
“I felt really bad because I was the one who put her inside that building,” McDonald told National Geographic. “At the same time, [I'm] happy that I did it because I’m still alive, and my buddies to my left and my right were also still alive.” (RELATED: Green ‘Hulk’ Puppies Born)
When a new parachute harness for military dogs was developed, McDonald volunteered Layka for the military test. McDonald, Layka and tandem sky jumper Mike Elliot skydived from 13,500 feet and landed safely.
“We’ve been working on this harness for the past three years now, we’d already tested the harness and we’d heard about Julian and his dog, and he said he’d really like this opportunity, so we got them up here and went through with the jump,” Stacy Cortes of Hardpoint Technologies, LLC told National Geographic in a video of the skydiving expedition.
For her work in Afghanistan, Layka received an unofficial medal of heroism on Sept. 12, 2012. Now Layka is helping pave the way for better technology to keep military dogs safe during military operations.
“God is good,” McDonald said after landing with Layka.