In January 1961, during a night time border reconnaissance, one of America’s newest tanks, the M60, got stuck in a small but exposed ravine in the forbidden no-man’s land between West Germany and Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia. The M60, introduced to the region in the previous month, was armed with a new cannon that was a potential doctrine-shifter in the Soviet political spectrum, should the Russians learn how the gun’s specifications compared to their own.
Despite the Americans’ best efforts, and working under threats from the Russian side, the US could not recover their machine.
The Soviets considered the tank’s presence an arrogant tweak of the nose, and warned they would destroy the M60 where it sat immobilized—going so far as to fire a few cautionary rounds at the NATO recovery team from across the open no-man’s land. The Americans issued a warning of their own: Any more weapons fire, and retaliation would be deadly.
Major Misha Zvensky was a happy, easygoing officer in the Russian army. Zvensky was in charge of the Soviet’s only anti-tank dog unit, where a small group of canines were trained to detonate explosives, and themselves, under enemy tanks.
For years Zvensky’s dogs were trained to find food under the hull of a tank. In deployments in the not-too-distant World War Two days, the action of the dog running under the tank activated a trip bar which exploded the canvas satchel each animal carried.
Of course, Zvensky’s dogs didn’t practice with live kit. During training, their packs were loaded with ballast, simulating enough TNT to destroy most armored vehicles.
Zvensky considered himself the luckiest soldier on the continent. He loved his dogs! Not only were canine detonation tactics no longer considered viable, he knew that in the rare case the world went to war, his dogs would never be called to action. His superiors went so far as to tell him there would be a day soon when he, and his dogs, could retire. Anti-tank rockets, helicopters, and long-range cannon could do what his unit could do—and better.
Deploying anti-tank dogs had proven problematic for the Soviets. The foreign odor of enemy fuel, as well as the movement of the tanks, often confused the animals. When the sounds of the battlefield were factored in with the general haste of war, the dogs often did the unthinkable and returned to their Russian trenches, exploding themselves and killing men on their own side.
Nika was a female German Shepard, and Zvensky’s favorite. She was in excellent physical shape, obeyed commands without hesitation, and knew how to run with the heaviest of satchels. Nika always ate her food under the hull of a tracked armored vehicle. She knew how to zig-zag, vary her speed, and hit her mark. Zvensky had plans for her retirement at his father’s cabin in the beautiful Romincka Forest.
On January 15th, Zvensky received a call. He was told to bring his most trusted dog to the Czech – German border. The Soviets weren’t going to allow the incursion of any so-called recovery vehicles into the no man’s land, and the US tank could not be allowed to remain a live gun platform. Nika was to be deployed on her life’s ultimate mission.
The preceding is a story treatment f0r a short fiction piece.