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If one is lucky in life, they will know the love of having a “soul” dog — to know undying trust, devotion and of course, love.

For retired Marine Staff Sgt. Brandon Marquez, that “soul” dog is his 12-year-old Belgian Malinois with the unique name of Multi-purpose Canine Shimanski.

“He’s my best friend,” Marquez told Task and Purpose. “Truly, this dog has done everything in life with me. The successes, the hard days, the good ones, the ugly ones; he’s been there with it all. I get to work every day with my best friend and hang out with him. I could never imagine him not being with me for all of it.”

According to the outlet, between 2013 and 2018, Shimanski and his handler Marquez deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Somalia with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, during which he searched for explosives while under fire.

Deployed four times in five years, Congress awarded MPC Shimanski The Animals in War & Peace Medal of Bravery on March 8, 2023. Created in 2019 the medal awards animals who conspicuously distinguish themselves by displaying gallantry and acts of valor.

Other recipients include Korean War hero Sgt. Reckless, a Mongolian mare who became one of greatest war horses in American history; Nemo, the German Shepherd who alerted his unit of a Viet Cong ambush before fearlessly charging at the enemy. The shepherd was shot in the head — the bullet entering under the right eye and exiting through his mouth — but continued to hurl himself at the Viet Cong attackers, giving his grievously wounded handler Bob Thorneburg time to call in for help. As they awaited rescue, Nemo crawled to Thorneburg and covered the airman with his body to protect him; and Cairo, the Belgian Malinois who took part in “Operation Neptune Spear” the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Born in the Netherlands in 2011, the Malinois met Marquez at the age of two in 2013. The pair trained together for six months before their first deployment to Afghanistan.

“Ninety-nine percent of my job was understanding what all of his body language was,” Marquez told Task and Purpose. “If his tail started to spin in a clockwise circle, he was starting to smell explosives.”

In his nomination of Shimanski, Marquez recalled one particular event in February 2014 in Sangin, Afghanistan, where the Malinois’ nose — and tail — saved lives.

With the “Team Chief was fatally wounded [,] Shimanski, his handler, and two other members of the unit rushed to the point of injury,” according to the Animals in War and Peace. “Under extremely heavy enemy direct and indirect fire, regardless of his own safety, MPC Shimanski exited the vehicle with his handler to begin establishing a safe path to their wounded teammate and the surrounding area. The team cleared two hasty helicopter landing zones to evacuate their team member. MPC Shimanski preformed to the highest standard, under gravely dangerous conditions, without error.”

Thankfully, Shimanski was never physically wounded in combat, but the stressors of combat and close calls paid a toll on the animal.

“I certainly went through my struggles, and things like that, but Shimanski also kind of went through his struggles,” Marquez told Task and Purpose. “He’s got a little Post Traumatic Stress and he’s been knocked around with me too.”

After nearly six years together — the dog-handler relationship typical ends at four — Marquez couldn’t part with his partner and best friend and ultimately decided to adopt Shimanski.

Marquez, according to Task and Purpose, owns a small dog training business, and he also runs a non-profit group that trains service dogs for veterans. Shimanski is still working alongside Marquez, albeit the stakes are much lower now.

A well-deserved retirement for a very, very good boy.

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