Man’s Best Friend

Having a dog is one of the best decisions you can make. For companionship, unconditional love, security and protection.

And as we’ve seen recently, “man’s best friend” can also be an elite soldier, helping root out and take down one of America’s Most Wanted terrorists.

Conan, a Belgian Malinois, was part of a U.S. special operations team that targeted the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ultimately leading to his death.

U.S. Central Command commander Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie Jr., said at the Pentagon, Conan was injured after coming into contact with live electrical cables while hunting down al-Baghdadi.

Conan, who has served about 50 missions and has worked with special operations forces for four years, has since returned to active duty. This dog saved lives!

When I left active duty in the SEAL Teams I had no idea how difficult the transition would be. 

I was leaving a group of the most incredible individuals, all of whom I trusted with my life. I finally had to accept the fact that this was a sense of trust and loyalty that could never be replaced.

I did however come close with the addition of two incredible dogs in my life: 

They truly only wish to please their owner and have brought back to a large degree the incredible trust and friendship that I held so dear from my SEAL team family. 

But I have also realized that my dog’s sense of protection has been invaluable on several occasions. 

Recently while repairing fence on my property in Northern Colorado, my loyal Rhodesian Ridgeback let me know that a moose was slowly moving toward my location. 

He placed himself between me and the approaching moose and chased it off. 

I would later learn that this moose was infected with CWD or chronic wasting disease –  a progressive, fatal disease that affects the brain, spinal cord, and many other tissues.

It also will make moose more aggressive than normal, which is interesting given the fact that more people die in Alaska from moose than bear attacks.

So, there I was not following my own advice while in the outdoors (looking around every few minutes) and my dog stepped in to protect me.  But it doesn’t end there.

On several occasions my dogs have been an early warning device for approaching vehicles. This included a group of three individuals from the local town that thought it would be okay to come out to my place and “help themselves.”

The two-minute warning my boys gave me was enough to gear up and force the would-be thieves out of their vehicle until the Sheriff arrived.

Let’s just say I took my time calling law enforcement so we could have a “little chat” about the huge mistake they made… while they were lying on the ground at gun point.

“Boys… you came to the wrong cabin today."

Owning any pet is a big responsibility but the payoff can be enormous. I believe in life you get what you give and if you take care of them, they will take care of you. 

If you are thinking about adding a dog to your life, there are several things I would suggest.

  1. Breed – Do your research and learn about the different characteristics each breed possesses. Activity level, TEMPERMENT, possible health issues, irritating tendencies often brought about by separation anxiety (excessive barking, chewing, digging, running away).
  2. Is this an aggressive breed? Especially if you have a family with little ones or children in the neighborhood. Some breeds have been known to react very different around infants/children.
  3. A secure area (yard) for them to enjoy – especially if you aren’t able to walk them on a regular basis. 
  4. 2 is easier than one. Dogs are pack animals and most don’t like being left alone.  And will remind you of this by destroying your new leather couch (yep, happened). Many of the issues of separation anxiety will cease to exist if they have a brother or sister to spend their time with.
  5. Identification. Make sure you have a collar with contact info (name/phone number) as well as a micro-chip that will allow their safe return if they get away.
  6. Regular veterinary visits to include all vaccines. Even rescue animals aren’t “free.” You need to be prepared for the cost of an animal, who’s depending on you for food, shelter and regular well-checks.

The last topic I want to discuss is something I’m having to deal with now.   Eventually the day will come when your amazing friend will come to the end of their life. It is the worst part about owning a pet. 

You need to mentally prepare yourself for such an occasion which I am doing regarding my oldest dog. As the son of a veterinarian I learned at an early age that to be a good dog owner you need to understand the concept of “quality of life.” 

My boy Chopper will turn 15 in a couple weeks having lived longer than he was supposed to. He has been such an amazing companion over the years – following me all over the United Sates and never complaining. It is now my duty to make sure he spends the remainder of his life as comfortable as possible. He will let me know when it’s time. 

I don’t want to leave things on a negative note. Don’t let the day I described above keep you from years of enjoyment with man’s best friend. They have added so much joy to my life. Hang in there Chopper.

Be a survivor, not a statistic,

Cade Courtley
Former Navy SEAL / 4Patriots Contributor


  • Charlie - August 12, 2020

    Love your article. So very sorry about the loss of your 2 furbabies. Know all too well the pain felt when they start showing their age and from having to say your last good boy or good girl😭.

    The only thing I STRONGLY DISAGREE with is breeding🥺. There are thousands of dogs in kennels (Human Society’s) who desperately need a forever home. Maybe some of your readers should try that first.😇

  • Frank - November 08, 2019

    Hello Cade, I loved watching you on TV and in videos. I am going to share a bit about myself here in support and appreciation of your article about dogs and ownership.

    My family has had a few dogs, a dachshund, a miniature poodle, a golden retriever and another poodle and then I picked up two Belgian malinois and after all four passed on we later acquired two poodles. And in my experience, the working dogs and dogs meant purely to be pets all required the same amount of attention. And I don’t believe in keeping dogs in kennels. It may be convenient and they do alright, but most would prefer to be part of a family or live with their human owner. They are after all pack animals and gregarious by nature with both humans and other dogs alike.

    Despite what breed books say, dogs can often behave differently or like my Malinois and the two poodles, one is more hyper or spunky than the other. And those pairs were brothers. With the number of breeders out there, you can find exceptions to the norm. And cross breeds have to be judged based on two or three canine profiles. In regards to working dogs, abilities can vary and some dogs can exhibit abilities not common for their breed.

    I have had a hard time trying to pursue dog training as a living due to the poor attitude of trainers, suspicious of everyone and dog owners who want a well trained dog for the price of a pair of pants and a shirt or one nice meal. Many are totally clueless about training and misguided articles advise them to ask how many dogs or how long has a trainer worked and ignore the obvious which is to allow the trainer to demonstrate their ability. Some require a showman and impressive sounding credentials and often seek those with experience in law enforcement or the military. They are blind to the reality that not all trainers can be employed by the local police or the United States military. And sadly there are good and also bad trainers in all areas even if they receive their training from the same sources. They assume and often allow themselves to be taken as fools.

    They’re also very lazy about working with the dog during or after taking lessons. They expect training to be easy and almost automatic without putting in any real effort. And being heavy handed is often the solution by trainers and owners. They focus on being the “alpha”, the master and using force to execute discipline. I feel our canine family would be better served by better co-operation and higher standards by their human masters. For the affection and comfort they give us, I think they deserve the best we can give them.

    I look forward to getting a dog soon, but still getting past the difficulty of caring for the last two and their deaths. Those 12 years each one lived was great and to see them transition to the end of their lives was painful, but every dog provided good feelings and I would like to have the joy of dog ownership again almost as an homage to past dogs we’ve owned.
    The responsibility needs to be recognized as that is the price to pay for the rewards of a dog.

    Nice article and all the best to you and your dogs.


  • Beth A Oser - November 08, 2019

    Thank you so much for your Service. Its appreciated tremendously by me and my family. I so enjoy your articles about your wonderful dogs…everyone needs at least one! We are working on our preparedness…I have purchased the food and solar packs for us & family! Thank you again and God Bless. Sincerely, Beth Oser

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