As a fighter in the IDF's Oketz canine unit, or "Sting" in English, St.-Sgt. Kiril Golenshin, 21, and his beloved German Shepherd "Mako" were at the spearhead of the IDF's nightly war against Palestinian terror, preceding the army's most elite soldiers into houses and dark alleyways in the most dangerous raids.
So it was only natural that Golenshin, from Moshav Shekef, was at the front of that force when he met his death Wednesday morning, gunned down while leading the charge on a house in Beit Hanun.
He was laid to rest Thursday evening at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl, and in the standing room only procession, under faces streaked with tears, could be seen the uniforms and badges of commando units as the IDF's finest turned out to salute for one last time a fallen comrade in arms.
The commander of Oketz explained to the some 500 attendees how, as an only child, Kiril could have opted for a non-combat position during his service. But a warrior in every sense of the word, he insisted on combat and he battled through three hellish tryouts - the physical and mental selection process for the IDF's best units.
Kiril realized a childhood dream when he was accepted to Unit 669, the air force's elite search-and-rescue team.
Golenshin later arrived at Oketz, where he instantly earned the respect of the other dog handlers for his commitment, his disregard for danger, and his professionalism under fire, his commander said.
Still not satisfied with his contribution, Kiril approached his commanders and requested to be sent to officers' school.
He died one week before he was to begin a commanders' course.
A friend of his from 669 addressed his departed friend: "You had big eyes and short hair, just like a soldier should. You were a warrior at the forefront of the nation's defense, and you died doing exactly what you loved most, and for this we envy you."
His father eulogized Kiril as a true patriot loved by all that knew him.
"I never told you, but you grew up and I am so proud of you. You defended the country you loved so much," he sobbed.
"When I asked you if you would stop with all these dangerous operations, I remember how you looked at me and said: 'Dad, I am with my best friends doing what I love. I can't stop.' So I gave my blessing and told you to take care of yourself.
"My son, now you are dead. May you rest in peace," his father said.