Conan, the military dog who participated in the raid that killed the elusive ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Oct. 26, visited the White House on Monday.
President Donald Trump introduced Conan, calling him “probably the world’s most famous dog” and a “tough cookie.” Conan was not with his military handler at the White House because the handler also participated in the raid and his identity remains classified.
Trump praised the canine as a hero at a recent rally in Monroe, Louisiana, and posted a mocked-up photo of him presenting the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, to the dog on Twitter.
Here’s what you need to know about Conan the military dog:
1. Conan Was ‘Slightly Wounded’ in the ISIS Raid in Syria, But Recovered and Is Back On Duty
At a press briefing at the Pentagon after the raid, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said Conan was “slightly wounded and fully recovering.” Military officials said the dog was hurt when it came into contact with live electrical cables during the raid.
Conan was serving with Delta Forces at the time of the raid and has participated in about 50 missions with the U.S. military.
“This is a major victory in the enduring defeat ISIS mission. I want to commend all those participating in and supporting the operation – American and partners alike – for a job well done,” Milley said in a statement.
2. President Donald Trump Declassified the Dog’s Identity After the Raid
Like other special forces involved in top-secret missions, Conan’s identity was classified. But after announcing that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed, President Donald Trump tweeted out a photo of the military dog that he said did “such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS.”
Newsweek soon reported that the military dog’s name is Conan. Trump, who confirmed the dog’s name on Twitter, described him as a beautiful dog, a talented dog.” At a political rally in Monroe, Louisiana, earlier this month, Trump mentioned Conan again, saying that he was “the great hero” of the operation.
At another political rally earlier this month in Mississippi, Trump said “actually, and I’m happy about this, Conan the dog got more publicity than me and I’m very happy about that.”
3. Conan the Military Dog Is a Belgian Malinois
According to the American Kennel Club, the Belgian Malinois’ temperament is described as “confident, smart, hardworking. The breed’s popularity ranks 43rd among 191 breeds and its life expectancy is 14 to 16 years.
Often called a Mal for short, the breed is very obedient. “If you have ever seen a Mal perform an obedience routine, you know firsthand what a smart and eager breed this is. Problems set in, though, when this people-oriented dog is underemployed and neglected. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with their adored owner, is key to Mal happiness,” according to the American Kennel Club.
The dog was first bred in Malines in Belgium and is very similar to a German Shepherd. Known for being excellent herders, the breed is very popular among police and military.
4. Conan Was Named After the Comedian Conan O’Brien, Not Conan the Barbarian
Pentagon sources told Newsweek that Conan was actually named after the comedian and former late night talk show host Conan O’Brien. After learning the name of the military dog that participated in the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, O’Brien joked on Twitter that the K-9 was “clearly the better ‘Conan.'”
A few days later, O’Brien joked about being mistaken for the hero dog.
Saturday Night Live did a skit about Conan, the military dog, and there’s even Conan the K-9 merchandise for sale on the Internet.
5. Many Veterans Have Called for Conan To Receive the Purple Heart Medal for His Injuries in Combat
The U.S. military does not award Purple Heart medals, earned for being injured in combat, to animals, but many veterans have argued that Conan should be an exception to that rule.
“Do I believe Conan should receive a Purple Heart for actions on target? Absolutely,” former Army Ranger and Purple Heart recipient Michael Bollinger told the New York Post. “They’re out there with us every step of the way.”
Military dogs have been used in combat for decades. They are often honored for their heroic actions and there’s even a U.S. War Dog Memorial in New Jersey. Military dogs have also been given commemorative medals for their service.
Still many veterans say military dogs should be eligible for the same medals that soldiers get.
“I would love to see Conan presented a Purple Heart with a live ceremony,” James Knuppenburg told the New York Post. “I think that the K9 is the most valuable asset on the ground. I don’t think that you can replicate through technology or any sort of weaponry what the K9 is capable of … Without a doubt I think that any award — including the medal of honor — should be able to be received by a K9.”
President Donald Trump said he presented Conan with a medal and a plaque during the dog’s visit to the White House on November 25.