TAMPA — When a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois dog named Eddie put his nose to the ground in Afghanistan last year, he was credited with saving an entire Air Force platoon from an improvised explosive device.
The bomb had gone unnoticed during the group's patrol until Eddie alerted his handler, Staff Sgt. Shannon Hutto, just moments before Hutto would have stepped on it. Later, the dog found another IED on a bridge the 13-man platoon was about to cross.
For that, Eddie won awards, heaps of praise and countless tosses of a rubber ball.
But the dog's military brothers in the 6th Security Forces Squadron could never return the favor he did for them. Until Monday.
That's when Eddie was going through a routine "bite training" drill — an exercise designed to hone the biting and attack skills of law enforcement and military dogs. After just 10 minutes in the hot sun outside MacDill Air Force Base, the dog suddenly fell ill.
His handlers immediately recognized the signs: heavy panting, frothy saliva, a seizure. All of it told them Eddie was in danger of succumbing to heatstroke.
Hutto and Air Force Staff Sgt. George Holmes, another of Eddie's handlers, rushed him to Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners, an emergency veterinary hospital in Tampa. There, the dog underwent immediate care to reduce his body temperature and save his life. All the while, his brothers in arms remained at his side.
"This is a great example of what happens when people are properly trained to recognize the signs of heatstroke," said BluePearl spokesman James Judge. "In the last year and a half, I haven't seen too many dogs that come in with heatstroke that make it."
The hospital made Eddie the subject of a news release, along with tips for dog owners to help them avoid a brush with the deadly affliction. They include walking during the mornings or evenings when it is cooler outside, making sure the dog has plenty of cool water throughout the day and never leaving pets unattended.
As for Eddie, hospital officials anticipate he will make a full recovery. He is expected to return to MacDill in the next few days, where he will continue to hone his talents for sniffing out explosives and chasing rubber balls.