On a deployment, finding some breath of fresh air is no small thing. Sometimes that comes in the form of making back to the FOB or COP, working out and if you have the facilities, playing a video game or just hanging out with your friends. Sometimes it means getting a few more hours of sleep than you usually get.

And sometimes it comes in the form of the connection built between man and man’s best friend. Soldiers have been bonding with dogs on the battlefield for a very long time, and coming back from a mission or a patrol to see the wagging tail and excited eyes of a dog can be quite moving. They aren’t chasing down the enemy, they don’t sniff out explosives, they serve no military purpose other than morale — and yet they become a crucial part of that deployment.

There’s something about meeting a dog in a place like that. Dogs aren’t like people — no matter where you go, no matter what language the people speak or how badly they want to kill you, dogs remain constant. They just want to play, get scratches, learn some tricks and love the person they’re with. This bond, especially when forged in a place of war, is hard to beat.

Then the deployment ends, and the dog is left behind. The person they have bonded with so deeply has mysteriously vanished, and they are left to scrounge for scraps in an unforgiving place that they do not understand. The soldier may have returned home, but his best friend has been left behind.