America

RIP, Target: The Afghan Hero Dog's Fairy Tale Ends In Tragedy

Target and Rufus

Target (right) and Rufus after reuniting with Sgt. Christopher Duke in July in Atlanta. Johnny Crawford/Atlanta Journal & Constitution via AP hide caption

itoggle caption Johnny Crawford/Atlanta Journal & Constitution via AP

You might remember the story from February: Three dogs growled and confronted a suicide bomber as he entered American military barracks in Afghanistan. The bomb exploded and killed one of the dogs. But their bravery saved American soldiers.

In July, Target and Rufus were flown from Afghanistan to the U.S., where they were lauded as heroes and even landed an appearance on Oprah.

Target, a yellow shepherd mix with a gentle face, went on to live with Sgt. Terry Young in Arizona, but a happy ending wasn't meant to be: Target escaped from the family's yard, was captured by animal control and was euthanized by accident.

The New York Times spoke to Young:

"My 4-year-old keeps saying, 'Daddy, bring Target home. Daddy, get the poison out,' " Sgt. Young said in a telephone interview, his voice choking with emotion. "Obviously, at first there was extreme anger and horror. Now that a couple of days have passed, the anger has been replaced by sorrow."

CNN reports that Target wasn't microchipped or registered in San Tan Valley, Ariz. She was picked up Friday, and on Monday an employee mistakenly euthanized her. CNN reports:

"I am heartsick over this. I had to personally deliver the news to the dog's owner, and he and his family are understandably distraught," said Animal Care and Control Director Ruth Stalter. "We work hard to get strays reunited with their owners.  When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow.  Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures."

The Eloy Enterprise, the local paper in San Tan, reports that the employee "has been placed on administrative leave for failing to follow procedures and euthanizing the wrong dog."

Sgt. Christopher Duke, who was responsible for finding a charity to fly the dogs to the U.S., remembered the dogs' heroism in a July interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"I owe them so much, not just for my life, but since returning, we now have a child on the way, which wouldn't be possible without that happening," Duke said. "He's not only saved my life, but helped create life for somebody else."

In another interview with CNN, Duke said Target earned her name because the Afghans they lived with were always trying to kill her. She was a tough dog, he said. "She's pretty much been through it all," CNN quotes him as saying.

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