(NBC) – The White House is really going to the dogs — or at least one dog.
President Donald Trump on Monday welcomed to the White House the hero dog that was injured in the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, awarding the canine a medal and a plaque.
“So this is Conan, right now probably the world’s most famous dog,” Trump told reporters as the Belgian Malinois stood nearby getting petted by Vice President Mike Pence. “Conan did a fantastic job. We’re very honored to have Conan here.”
The president said he had also welcomed other members of the Special Forces team involved in the daring October raid at the ISIS leader’s compound, but that meeting was private to protect their identities.
That left Conan as the lone public representative of the team.
Trump, who has previously said that he’s not a dog person, told reporters that Conan is “very special.”
“They were going to put a muzzle on the dog, and I thought that was a good idea, but then it gets even more violent,” Trump said. “But no, the dog is incredible. Actually incredible. We spent some good time with it. So brilliant. So smart.”
While Trump didn’t interact with the pooch at the event, he said, “I got to see how fast Conan can move.”
He said he had asked the dog’s handler, “What chance would a strong man have, a really strong tough fighter, what chance would this person have against Conan without the guns?”
“The answer pretty much was none — he would have no chance,” he said. “Conan is a tough cookie. Nobody’s going to mess with Conan.”
As Pence stood nearby scratching Conan, Trump told Reuters reporter Jeff Mason, “You’re very lucky he’s not in a bad mood today.”
Conan is a female, a White House official said, despite Trump on multiple occasions referring to the dog as “he.”
Trump said Conan had been “very badly hurt” in the raid, although Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had previously described his injuries as minor, saying he’d gotten an electric shock after hunting down al-Baghdadi in a tunnel.
Trump said Conan had already gone out on other “very important raids” since the al-Baghdadi raid.
“It’s a great honor to have Conan here. A great honor to have the Special Forces here,” he said.
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