Layton man injured in Afghanistan adopts 'hero' dog
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LAYTON — On May 9, 2010, John Logie, his body full of shrapnel, was loaded into a helicopter and flown from Afghanistan to Germany after being injured by an improvised explosive device.
He said his K9 partner, Balto, watched as he was loaded up.
"He's looking at me like, 'Where are you going, Dad?'" Logie recalled.
Saturday, the same dog stared down the same man, as Logie arrived to pick up Balto from the Delta Cargo warehouse at the Salt Lake City International Airport as his new owner.
"This is my hero right here," Logie said as the dog was released from his kennel. "He saved my life multiple times and now it's time for him to go home and sit on the couch."
Logie said he began working with Balto when he went to Afghanistan in 2009. Working as a contracted handler first with the U.S. Special Forces, then the Canadian Military, the pair spent almost a year together searching for explosives and clearing the way for troops until the day Logie was injured.
"When you're over there in that kind of condition, the dog is pretty much on your hip 24/7," Logie said. "You sleep with him, live with him, eat with him He's got a good sniffer on him. He found a lot before I got hurt."
On May 9, 2010, Logie said he and Balto were sent out to clear a compound near some grape fields where explosives were often buried. Picking up some IED residue from a nearby building, Balto pulled Logie toward the structure — and away from a powerful "primary" IED.
Logie hit a secondary IED, which sent shrapnel through his left arm and leg, parts of his right leg and arm and damaged his hearing. But he believes hitting the less powerful explosive spared his life.
"If he had not pulled me toward that building and I hit the secondary the way I did, it could have been a very bad day for both of us," Logie said. "(The explosive) was pretty much designed to take me and him out."
Logie was transported first to Germany, then to Salt Lake during his 18-month recovery process. He saw Balto again when he returned to Afghanistan in 2012.
"I called his name and he looked at me and his tail went waggling and he came charging after me," Logie said, adding that he has been able to see Balto a few times since the day he was injured.
Logie knew he wanted to adopt Balto when he reached retirement and the owner of the company Logie works for told him the dog would be his if he passed his post-blast tests. Logie was training and certifying in Alabama with a new dog when he heard a shipment of dogs were returning from Afghanistan and that Balto, now retired, was among them.
"I contacted the company right away and got my paperwork in," Logie said. "A couple of days later, everything was signed, sealed and delivered."
Logie became emotional as he talked about the Czech Shepherd.
"The trust and bond I built with him is hard to describe," he said. "He's my hero. There's really no other word I could say for him. I was hoping for this day for a long time."
The Layton man said he is looking forward to introducing Balto to the snow, grass, mountains and trees. He wants his former K9 companion's retirement to be a happy, relaxed one.
"It was something me and the kids talked about for a long time, a day when he could just lay on the couch and be a dog and today's the day," Logie said.
He surprised his daughter, Thea, when he arrived home with Balto Saturday.
"I think it's really cool to meet him," she said. "He's kind of a hero to all of us."
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