Animal Planet’s “Glory Hounds” introduces military working dogs and their handlers

Military working dogs and all that they do to help our soldiers in combat have become more appreciated in recent years, particularly in light of the knowledge that a military dog was part of the team on the ground when Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. Interest in military working dogs has led to more articles about them, and television specials, such as tonight’s two-hour premiere Animal Planet documentary Glory Hounds.

In Afghanistan, there are approximately 600 military working dogs (MWDs) serving alongside the men and women in the military, and the dogs’ sole purpose is to protect soldiers and innocent civilians. These military working dogs are highly trained to do what no human or even technology can do — use their keen sense of canine smell to sniff out, locate and signal for explosive devices and track insurgents. To their handlers, these dogs are not merely gear — they are weapons with hearts, minds and souls.

Glory Hounds focuses on the relationships between four handlers and their MWDs in Afghanistan. To chronicle these heroic duos, filmmakers and embedded camera crews got unprecedented access to MWD teams in some of the most volatile regions in Afghanistan. It wasn’t easy. Permission to film in this active war zone required over a year of discussions among producers and four branches of the U.S. military. Once they gained access, camera teams filming the stories told in Glory Hounds got specialized training before spending six weeks in Afghanistan embedded with the troops and military working dogs.

The military working dogs and handlers featured in Glory Hounds are:

Lance Corporal Kent Ferrell and his MWD, Zora: Lance Cpl. Ferrell, 22, of Bel Air, Maryland, grew up with a golden retriever that had a huge impact on his life. Now, as a MWD handler, he develops a deep bond with his German shepherd, Zora, on the front lines. Their partnership is pragmatic and personal; many lives depend on Zora’s ability to sniff out IEDs before they explode, but to Lance Cpl. Ferrell, Zora is more than a defense weapon – she’s his sister-in-arms.

Corporal Drew Nyman and his MWD, Emily: Raised in Emporia, Kansas, 23-year-old Cpl. Nyman’s parents owned a pet shop, so it comes as no surprise that he’s a natural around dogs. Cpl. Nyman wants to make it home to see his wife and newborn son, so it’s imperative, as a MWD handler, to understand what his canine partner, Belgian Malinois Emily, is thinking at all times. Any miscue could be the difference between life and death. Cpl. Nyman and Emily are a combat-tracking team. Emily doesn’t sniff out explosives; she smells humans, and she’s looking for Taliban insurgents deep in the heart of enemy territory.

Staff Sergeant Len Anderson and his MWD, Azza: Staff Sgt. Anderson, 29, from Chestertown, South Carolina, is training for his new role as kennel master with his MWD Azza, a veteran Belgian Malinois who detects bombs. In his role, Staff Sgt. Anderson could remain safely in the compound. He believes real leaders lead from the front, so he receives special permission for Azza and himself to join his troops on patrol outside the wire. Anderson and Azza get caught in the crossfire, and a Glory Hounds cameraman becomes part of the story himself when he drops his camera to help save Staff Sgt. Anderson’s life.

Lance Corporal Durward Shaw and his MWD, Falko: Lance Cpl. Shaw, 21, of Denton, Texas, is Falko’s first-ever MWD handler. Falko, a German Shepherd mix, is an attack dog and an explosive-device tracker. Both handler and dog are newbies in Afghanistan and are part of a security detail operating on Afghanistan’s notorious Highway One, a critical supply artery that’s also one of the deadliest roads in the country. Lance Cpl. Shaw is eager to put his and Falko’s abilities to the test, but every step outside the wire is a step into the unknown. He also is determined to make it home to his wife and his newborn daughter, whom he’s never met, so he relies on Falko to help him stay alive.

The two-hour special Glory Hounds premieres Feb. 21 at 8pm ET/PT on Animal Planet.


Credit: Animal Planet


  1. This was an absolute awesome show!!! The intelligence and loyalty of these dogs are amazing. I couldn’t stop watching this show. It was awful that Zora got hit by that grenade. Really sad. Thank you animal planet (camera people) for showing us at home what these soldiers and k-9’s do in action and how they put their lives at risk. Greatful for these handlers and the dogs.

  2. Glory Hounds had me in tears again and again…What a wonderful documentary. As much as it hurts to watch, it needs to be seen by everyone. I am the widow of a Viet Nam 1st Lt. and I wish we had the same types of coverage back then as we do now…and the same attitudes towards our soldiers.

  3. Thank you for a great documentary,comforting to know that these great Marines have these wonderful dogs watching their backs and providing comfort,had tears in my eyes.

  4. What an incredible show,..I found myself completely engrossed in this docu/drama I watched it for two reasons first my son is Army infentry,second I love animals.Thank god for the relationship we have with mans best friend & God bless America. Also I would like to say how greatful I feel when I saw that young soldier get out of that wheel chair and walk to his family and that he was reunited with his dog.

  5. That was incredible. Great job. The documentary hit home. Our son USMC SSGT Christopher Diaz as a K9 Handler. He was KIA in Afghanistan on Sept. 28, 2011. Thank you to all service men and women for their sacrifice. Semper Fi!!

  6. I have been following the war dogs since my son was in the Army, one year, as we were getting ready to send care packages over he said Mom, don’t forget the dogs, and when the call went out for doggy treats, toys and articles to help them out it was overwhelming how much love was sent to those dogs.
    I was enthralled by the show, the interaction, the love, the devotion of both handler and dog, for the common cause of keeping their brothers and sisters safe from harm. It was a gripping and well done program and I am ever thankful for a tv program that “got it right” . The two most poignant moments of the show were at the honor of Zora, and her name plaque on the Tree of Honor The triumph over tragedy for Azza and SS Anderson and the look on her face when she realized he was not going to call her and then her anxiety of trying to get to him and being held back you could feel her pain, fear for her handler she just wanted to get to him – then at the the reunion her joy was boundless – her world was once again complete – yes these moments with so many others give this documentary a well deserved two paws up.

  7. That was an incredibly good documentary. You really captured the deep bond between dog and handler, and underscored the importance of the work these teams do. Thanks for all the work you put into this.

  8. Glory Hounds is an outstanding program showing the value of k9’s and the tragety of war.

    Semper Fi, USMC RVN 66-68

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