The Chief has learned of a tragic mistake, which cost a war hero her life.
Her name was Target - a shepherd mix dog who traveled all the way to the United States from Afghanistan. On Nov. 15, a county employee in Arizona mistakenly euthanized Target - an error that cost that employee their job and outraged a nation.
It is a story we have been following for months, beginning in February 2010, when the Chief had the privilege of sharing with our readers the heartwarming story of three dogs credited with saving the lives of countless U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The story was told by Sergeant Terry Young, a medic with HHC 1-158th Infantry based out of Mesa, Ariz.
Terry lived in Broken Bow from birth through 5th grade, and graduated from Valentine Rural High School in 1992. He and wife, Melissa (Farr), both lived in Broken Bow for a while during the mid 1990s.
The story was unfolded of how these three dogs - Target, Rufus and Sasha - attacked a suicide bomber on the base in Afghanistan where Terry and his unit were stationed. Because of the dogs’ instincts and relentless efforts to protect their American friends, the bomber was the only human life lost in the incident. Unfortunately, Sasha also lost her life.
The soldiers spent weeks nursing the injured Target and Rufus back to health. Terry put into words the story of the heroic dogs that he and the other soldiers credited with saving their lives, and shared the story with the Chief as well as several national media sources.
“We were staged and ready to leave Afghanistan, just waiting for the Chinooks to arrive to carry us out of the hell we knew as Dand Aw Patan,” Terry says as he recalls preparing to head home. “It was bittersweet because I knew in just a few more weeks, I would be sitting in my own living room, watching my own TV and playing with my children trying to forget this place.
“I was excited and hurt at the same time. I couldn’t help but think of Target and Rufus being left behind, but I was somewhat consoled by the fact that there was another US Army unit falling in behind us and they knew of the heroics of Target and Rufus. There was still that part of me that knew that they were still in a lot of danger just because of the area itself.”
Terry continues, remembering that day he left Afghanistan. “I gave Target lots of love and an extra long petting, wishing her the best of luck and hoping that somehow God would find a way to help her stay safe.”
Terry returned home to his family, but the dogs were never far from his mind. As their story continued to circulate, The Puppy Rescue Mission was formed with the sole purpose of rescuing these “war hero” dogs.
“It was July 18th, and it was just another day of getting adjusted at work and at home. I was tracking what was going on with the dogs on Facebook,” Terry says as he vividly remembers the events of that day. “Since they had used my article, I was caught up in what was going on and the Puppy Rescue Mission considered me one of the main contributing factors in all of this happening. I was checking Facebook to see what the latest was when I received the message, “Hi Terry, I am Cecilia Pinters daughter-in-law and I am writing in regards to Target. I was wondering if you wanted to take her into your family. I think with the history you all have with her she would be well placed. She flies in Thursday to JFK with Rufus, please let me know asap if your interested.”
Terry continues, “I couldn’t believe it! I thought I was dreaming! I knew for sure that last day in Dand Patan was the last time I would ever see Target, but because of a little article I wrote and the help of some wonderful people, Target was going to actually be coming to be part of my family. I responded right away letting the Puppy Rescue Mission know I absolutely wanted Target.”
On Aug. 4, Target and Terry were finally reunited and began their life together at home in the Phoenix area. Terry’s three children - Trenedy, 14, Mahala, 7 and Travius, 4 - also bonded with Target.
Then on a Friday night, Nov. 12, Target escaped from the family’s back yard. Because she did not have a tag or microchip, she eventually wound up in the county pound.
In his desperate search to find her, Terry saw a picture of Target on a website used by county dog catchers to help owners track lost pets. Terry says he figured the shelter was closed for the weekend, and went in Monday to get Target back. However, instead of retrieving his pet Terry was informed that she was dead.
According to Fox News, county officials at the shelter in Casa Grande say the employee mistakenly took Target out of her pen Monday morning and euthanized her. The dog was not scheduled for euthanasia.
Fox News reports that employee has been fired, and county officials are declining to release the name of the employee because of threats made to that person and angry telephone calls to the shelter. Lisa Garcia, assistant county manager for Health and Human Services in Casa Grande, says they are looking into management practices and procedures to make sure something like this cannot happen again.
Terry explains that Target was not accustomed to being confined, but since coming to live with him has gotten used to eating dog food and learned to use the doggie door to go to the bathroom.
Target was given a celebrity reception in the U.S., appearing on Oprah, and virtually all the major television news channels. She was also honored with a local Hero Award as dog of the year.
Terry says Target’s loss has been a devastating blow to the family, especially 4-year-old Travius, who keeps asking his dad to take the poison out and bring Target home.
A candlelight vigil for Target was held Friday, Dec. 3. Terry says he plans to spread Target’s ashes, perhaps at the park where she used to play, at a memorial service.