PHOENIX--- Combat K-9 handlers stateside are heartbroken after hearing from the Taliban in Afghanistan that a military dog has been captured.
A spokesman for coalition forces says a dog was lost in December but would not confirm whether the Belgian Malinois seen on Taliban video is theirs.
The Pentagon says this is the first recorded K-9 prisoner of war.
"Military dogs have been saving lives since World War II. They're the forgotten heroes," Jim Frost told 3TV. Frost trained combat dogs during and after the Vietnam War.
Frost says between 400 and 500 dogs are working in Afghanistan.
"Each dog in Afghanistan is officially credited with saving 150 lives during its tour. That's a lot of GIs coming home because of these dogs," he said.
Some handlers, like Zak Lindblom of Phoenix, are allowed to adopt the dogs after retirement.
Lindblom adopted his lab, Ellie, when she retired. The two served together in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011.
His heart goes out to the handler of the dog the Taliban claims to be holding.
"He spent a lot of time training the dog. To have it ripped away from him is devastating, especially if he knows it's in the hands of the Taliban," Lindblom said.
Ellie was trained to track improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
"We had a couple close encounters with IEDs, which shook me up a bit," Lindblom said, "and she definitely saved our lives."
He says the loss of a dog can be hard on the entire unit since military dogs help boost morale.
"Any time people we're feeling down, they'd have a dog to pet and decompress, and remind them of home," he said.
The Taliban claims this K-9 was carrying a GPS, a camera and other military gear.
"The dog could have been at an outpost which came under attack," Frost speculated. "In chaotic situations, a dog is still a dog and might have run off in all the noise."