The only reason he returned from his last stint was because of Willy: "He saved my life, twice."
Afghanistan vet adopts bomb-sniffing dog
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SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - When word recently arrived in the Sault that Willy was ready for adoption, Gage LaMothe didn’t hesitate.
And a half-day of driving 800 or so odd miles to Virginia wasn’t going to stand in the way for this former Marine.
LaMothe arrived in less than 24 hours.
“We had been separated for seven months,” said the Sault High graduate. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to recognize me, but as soon as he smelled me he just freaked out - it was awesome.”
Willy is a bomb dog trained to pick up any kind of scent that could be used as an explosive. Paired with E-3 LaMothe, they uncovered nine explosive devices, a Soviet hand grenade, one anti-personnel land mine, 120 feet of detonating cord, 23 blasting caps and 320 pounds of homemade explosive on a tour of Afghanistan from August 2011 to March of this year.
“Me and Willy hold the record for most finds,” said LaMothe.
LaMothe had already completed two tours in hostile lands when he decided to become a dog handler.
“I volunteered for it,” he said, explaining his motivation. “I witnessed one of my friends die after stepping on an IED. If I could save just one life, it would be worth it.”
After training with for five months, they were deployed to Afghanistan, where they spent every moment together.
“On some of the operations, he was the only thing to pack to keep me warm,” said LaMothe, noting it can get awfully cold at night in the desert, and the foot patrols required him to carry in Willy’s dog food and water, instead of a sleeping bag. “I would curl up with him at night.”
After returning from his third tour of duty, LaMothe was honorably discharged from the Marines. He said, without going into detail, the only reason he returned from his last stint was because of Willy: “He saved my life, twice.”