Loyal Dog dies of Broken Heart

Liam and Theo were a team— searching out roadside bombs laid by insurgents in Afghanistan. The jovial British soldier and his irrepressible dog worked and played together for months, and died on the same day.

Lance Cpl. Liam Tasker, a dog handler with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, was killed in a firefight with insurgents in Helmand Province on March 1 as he searched for explosives with Theo, a bomb-sniffing springer spaniel mix.

What happened next as described in The Scotsman, would be described later as an “audacious ambush”. A burst of gun fire followed by explosions. “Mortars,” someone shouted. “Man down. Medic.” Tasker had been shot in the head, dying 
instantly. Under fire, soldiers broke cover and made their way to where he lay.
Theo, distressed but 
unharmed, was still attached by the lead to his 
master’s belt, making it difficult to examine the body. The dog was cut loose and Tasker was evacuated by helicopter. Theo, back at base, suffered a seizure and later died, for reasons that an autopsy was unable to explain.

Loyal Dog Dies of “Broken Heart”

Liam Tasker’s mother Jane Duffy does have an explanation, however, which she shares, “I think Theo died of a broken heart,” she says. 
“Nobody will convince me any different.”

On Thursday they came home, flown back to Britain in a somber repatriation ceremony for the soldier remembered for his empathy with animals and the companion he loved.

Military officials won’t go so far as to say Theo died of a broken heart — but that may not be far from the truth. “I think we often underestimate the grieving process in dogs,” said Elaine Pendlebury, a senior veterinarian with animal charity PDSA. “Some dogs react very severely to their partner’s loss.”

She said it was not uncommon for pets to respond to an owner’s death by refusing food and becoming sick — and the bond between working dogs and their handlers is especially close.

“The bonding that I have seen between soldiers or police and their dogs is fantastic. When you see them working together, it’s really one unit.” Tasker was the 358th British soldier to die in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Theo was the sixth British military dog killed in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001.

There are calls for Theo to receive the Dickin medal, which since 1943 has recognized wartime bravery by animals, from carrier pigeons to a World War II commando collie.

The loyalty of some dogs is legendary, from Greyfriars Bobby, a 19th-century Skye terrier who guarded his master’s Edinburgh grave for 14 years, to Hachiko, a Japanese dog who awaited his owner’s return at a train station every day for years after the man’s death. Both are commemorated with statues.

Tasker’s uncle, Billy McCord, said the soldier had been due to leave Afghanistan soon and worried about being separated from Theo. “He actually said at one point that when he finished his tour he was not sure what would happen to his dog and that he could be separated from his dog,” he said. “That was preying on his mind, but they are not separated now.”

Although this loyal dog died, his bravery and love for his partner and friend will forever live on, much like Hachiko’s true story of devotion.


Hands Up if you can relate to:

~ Feeling stuck & frustrated with the daily “sameness” of your life.
~ Struggling to get clear on priorities and your authentic self.
~ Filled with regrets over “the road not taken”.

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