Target, a true American hero, set off on just such an exploration last week, abandoning the safety of her back yard home with Sgt. Terry Young, his wife, Melissa and their children, Tavius, Trenedy and Mahala.
She never made it home. She ended up at the Pinal County Care and Control shelter in Phoenix, Arizona, where she was mistakenly euthanized Monday morning, just hours before Young arrived to reclaim her.
Young, a Valentine, Nebraska high school graduate and the son-in-law of Mitch and Candy Farr of McCook, introduced McCook Daily Gazette readers to three incredible dogs in a story published Feb. 24, 2010. "True Heroes -- Rejected by Afghans, mutts save U.S. lives."
On Feb. 11, the dogs, Rufas, Sasha and Target, stopped a suicide bomber from entering Young's barracks in Dand Aw Patan, Afghanistan, saving the lives of several soldiers. The suicide bomber detonated his bomb outside of the barracks, while Rufas was still latched to his right leg. All three dogs suffered injury, Sasha succumbing to hers. Target, escaping serious injury, delivered four healthy pups two days later. The story soon became national news and people from around the world applauded the canine heroes.
Young returned to the United States in March, his tour of duty complete.
Just before boarding the Chinook that would take him on the first leg of a long journey home, he spent a lot of time loving Target up, saying what he was sure would be his final farewell.
All that changed on July 18, when Young received a message from the Puppy Rescue Mission asking if he was interested in permanently opening his home to Target, who was bound for the United States. On Aug. 8, Young wrote a second story for Gazette readers, "Hero Dogs arrive from Afghanistan," four days after Target arrived at his Arizona home.
Target, a media darling in the early weeks, settled in with Terry, his wife Melissa and their three children.
Young wrote in an email to CNN affiliate KPHO "I'm an absolute wreck today, and it's everything in my power to hold it together for me and my family. My 4-year-old son just can't understand what is going on with Target and keeps asking me to get the poison out of her and bring her home. They don't want her to go be with God yet."
The shelter director, Ruth Stalter, told CNN, "I am heartsick over this. I had to personally deliver the news to the dog's owner, and he and his family are understandably distraught. We work hard get to strays reunited with their owners. When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow. Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures."