After a U.S. soldier witnessed a military dog take on a hail of bullets for him and his brothers-in-arms during a tour in Afghanistan, he felt indebted and resolved to give her the best life possible (video below).
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald was serving in Afghanistan when an enemy combatant opened fire on him and his fellow soldiers during a routine mission.
Layka, a trained Belgian Malinois, took the brunt of the ambush.
"We got there to kind of assess the situation a little bit more," McDonald told ABC News. "That's when the guy ... started to shoot. He shot [Layka], about four to six controlled rounds at her."
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Following the mission, Layka was rushed to a hospital, where she was operated on for seven hours. While the military canine managed to pull through, her front right leg had to be amputated.
McDonald was compelled to take care of the wounded dog and repay her for saving his life, Shareably reports.
"On the day Layka got shot ... instantly I felt a sense of urgency to fix her," McDonald said. "I owe this dog every moment that I have from here on out with my son, with my mother, with my family. I owe her everything."
McDonald added that if a military dog "puts in the time for the country, then the country owes it to them to put the time into them."
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The soldier had been advised that Layka would be too aggressive after serving in war, but he adopted her anyway and brought her to his home in Columbus, Georgia.
Rebecca Switzer and her husband, who met both McDonald and Layka during an event, were moved by the canine's story and helped raise money for her physical therapy through online crowdfunding.
"We love animals and we help a lot of animals, but she's a hero; she saved our troops," Switzer said. "She didn't ask to go in; she was trained to go in. We're just enamored with her and what she has been through in her deployment."
Meanwhile, McDonald discovered that Layka would fit in just fine with his family, the dog striking up an affectionate bond with his young son, Liam.
"I unhooked her and, from there on out, her and Liam were the best of friends," McDonald said. "It was super cool to see."
Thousands of trained military dogs served alongside U.S. troops and their allies during the war in Afghanistan. The canines detected explosive devices, searched for missing comrades, served as therapy dogs and even accompanied soldiers on the front lines, according to The Atlantic.
McDonald believes Layka's resilience after her devastating injuries helped him cope with the emotional scars of his service.
"Just seeing that she could just transition so easy into the civilian world -- and I told myself, 'If she can do it, I can do it,'" McDonald said. "She is kind of my rock."