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Soldier says goodbye to military working dog

2/27/15 - MIESAU, Germany - Pvt. Kaitlin Haines still gets a little teary-eyed when she talks about Cak, a local military working dog who was put to rest last December.

"We just became best friends, as close as you could come with a dog," said Haines, Cak's handler and a Soldier with the 100th Military Working Dog Detachment.

Cak was a military working dog who "chose" Haines on June 10, 2013. At the time, 7-year-old Cak already had quite a lengthy resume, having previously worked with four different dog handlers. Everyone in the unit described Cak as "old" and "mean," but Haines felt an instant connection.

"I just sat in there in (his kennel) with him, and he came and laid his head right on top of me, and that was it," Haines said. She knew Cak was the one that very first day.

From the moment they were paired, Haines and Cak did everything together, from patrol work to daily obedience training. "I've been on a whole bunch of missions where I had to stay at a hotel with him for weeks on end," Haines said.

Haines and Cak were, so to speak, "hand in paw." Even during those last days when Cak became ill, suffering from a severe case of hygroma -- a condition that affects a dog's elbows and joints, Haines never left his side.

"My plan was to adopt him out and take him home with me. The (veterinarians) were saying, 'He needs medical attention.' I was saying, 'He's fine.' Of course, it was all denial. I didn't want to lose my best friend," Haines said. That December, following the medical opinion of local veterinarians, she made the decision to put him to rest.

Two months later, a memorial service for Cak was held on Feb. 9 at the Miseau Chapel. At the front of the alter, atop his crate, was an urn with Cak's ashes. Many Soldiers attended the service, bringing poems and eulogies showing their respect for the veteran dog. When Haines approached the podium and gave her eulogy, many of the Soldiers in attendance had tears in their eyes. Spc. Sara Martinez, also a handler with the 100th MWDD, stated, "It was very beautiful."

For Haines, the days with Cak are gone forever, symbolized by the tipped water bowl at the door of his crate. "[It represents] he isn't coming back home," she said.

It has been several months now since Cak passed away, and Haines has a new dog, Beny. There is no comparison between the two though, Haines says. Beny is a 3-year-old German Shepherd, more energetic than Cak, and the kind of dog that says, "I'm just going to run around."

"But, he's a good dog," Haines said.

Haines loves to be a dog handler. Though she now has Beny, Cak will always be in her heart.

"You work with the dog every day. Their job is to serve and protect your life. All Cak wanted to do was make me happy. That was it," she said.

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Bringing part of Josh home: MWD of fallen handler adopted by family

2/29/16 - MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Military Working Dog handlers often describe the bond between themselves and their dogs as unbreakable and everlasting. Their dogs are more than just their best friends; they are their brothers, an extension of themselves, comrades in arms. For the family of fallen Marine Sgt. Joshua Ashley, adopting MWD Sirius into their family was like reuniting with a part of their son.

2nd Law Enforcement Battalion retired MWD Sirius to the family of his former handler, in what is known as a passing of the leash ceremony, at the Ashley Kennels at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Feb. 26. Sgt. Ashley was killed in 2012 while he and Sirius were on patrol in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“In 2012, Sgt. Ashley was leading a patrol attached to a [Marine Special Operations Command] team out of Zombalay Village in the Helmand Valley,” said Sgt. Frederick Roethler, a friend of Sgt. Ashley’s who was deployed with him when he died. “Sgt. Ashley was doing his job clearing the route. He and Sirius were on point when Sgt. Ashley hit an [improvised explosive device]. Luckily, Sirius wasn’t hit and was okay. The biggest thing that I will take away is that Sgt. Ashley did his job and everyone else came home alive but, unfortunately, he wasn’t one of those Marines that came home alive. He gave all and that’s all we can ever ask for.”

Ashley’s friends and family describe him as a protector and as the type of person who always looked out for others and took them under his wing. His mother, Tammie Ashley, remembers him as the fun-loving life of the party.

“Josh, from the day he was born, was happy-go-lucky,” said Tammie. “He was the popular kid in school, he was the team captain.”

Sirius continued to serve in the Marine Corps after OEF. Roethler considered it a great honor to take over as Sirius’s handler and was glad that working alongside Sirius made him feel closer to his fallen friend. When it came time for Sirius to retire, Roethler and 2nd LEB agreed that there would be no better home for Sirius than with the Ashley family.

“He told me the last night before we lost him that he wanted to adopt Sirius and that he wanted me to take him until he was able to have him,” said Tammie. “So, ever since he passed away, we have always wanted to get him.”

Ashley’s family came to Camp Lejeune from their hometown of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. to attend Sirius’s retirement ceremony and bring him home.

“I think for Sgt. Ashley’s family to adopt Military Working Dog Sirius brings them a lot more closure,” said Lt. Col. David Hyman, the commanding officer of 2nd LEB. “As a gold star family, losing a loved one overseas in combat is a pretty tragic event and it has been several years now that they have continued to deal with that loss. Bringing Sirius back to them is almost like bringing back Sgt. Ashley.”

Those who worked with them could not have been happier to see Sirius return to Ashley’s family.

“Sgt. Ashley and Sirius are one and the same person, and that family needs to be brought together with Sirius,” said Roethler. “It’s amazing to see it finally happening and his family is able to have a little bit more closure and they get to have something else in their lives that will get to remind them every day of everything that they loved about Josh.”

And for Ashley’s family, they get to keep the little part of their son and brother closer to their hearts.

“It means that we get a part of Josh,” said Tammie. “My son was never able to have children. He always wanted children and I kind of look [at Sirius as] his child. So my son’s baby is coming home to me. That’s what [Sirius] is to me. He is going to be one of the family.”


86 SFS hosts MWD memorial

11/24/2015 - Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 86th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, attends a memorial service in honor of his MWD, Brutus Nov. 20, 2015 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Brutus served with the 86th SFS as a patrol explosive detection dog for 13 years.


Remembering a true American Patriot

10/15/2015 - MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. A MWD named Xxenos passed away earlier this year at the age of 10. Xxenos had been retired three years and been deployed three times during his career; twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.


Squadron hosts memorial service for deceased K-9

7/15/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, ILL. -- The 375th Security Forces Squadron paid their final respects to Breston, a 375th SFS military working dog, during a memorial service July 9 at Scott. A canine prayer along with a poem was recited, and the Scott Air Force Base Honor Guard rendered military honors for Breston during the service.

The dog, a Belgian Malinois, was diagnosed with cancer June 18 and due to his medical complications, he was euthanized the same day after more than eight years of military service.

"Breston was a great dog and a loyal, dedicated friend always," said Tech. Sgt. Bryan Dell, 375th SFS kennel master of the military working dog section.


31 SFS ceremony for military working dogs

6/24/2015 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- The 31st Security Forces Squadron hosted a military working dog memorial and retirement ceremony, June 22, 2015, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The memorial was held for MWD Lea, who passed away recently. U.S. Air Force Senior Airman William Shine, Lea's handler, recited a poem after a brief description of Lea's seven years of service. The ceremony concluded with the retirement of another 31 SFS MWD, Tora.


Retirement, memorial service honors military dogs

12/29/2014 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The sun shone outside, but the mood was somber in the base auditorium as several military working dogs lay at their handler's feet. Airmen gathered in groups throughout the theater, but spoke with hushed tones in accordance with the reason for the gathering.

Three kennels sat in the center of the stage, deservedly a place of honor. Before each one were personal effects - water bowl, leash, food dish - and a large portrait on top. The display and the continuous slide show detailing information about each one assured Spike, Ggina and Donja were remembered one more time. To the side of the stage their comrade Guyro stood respectfully with his handler, Staff Sgt. Andrew Koch waiting his turn to take the stage.

The retirement and memorial service Dec. 19 at the base auditorium celebrated the retirement of MWD Guyro, a German Shepherd, and honored the memories of MWDs Spike, Ggina and Donja, Belgian Malinois working dogs from the 21st Security Forces Squadron kennel.


K-9 receives military honors during euthanasia

7/30/2014 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- After receiving military honors, Military Working Dog Brix was laid to rest at the Scott Air Force Base veterinary clinic July 18. The retired K-9 suffered from debilitating hip pain.

"I adopted Brix on Oct. 12, 2011," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Drew Risley, Master at Arms. "Brix was assigned to me in February of 2011 as my first military working dog, so naturally he meant the most to me. Brix taught me how to be a good handler. I worked with him for a short time before he retired and I decided to bring him home to become part of my family. In return, he watched over them for me."

Brix, a German Shepherd, graduated as a patrol explosive detection dog in November 2003. After graduation, Brix served four Navy dog handlers. During his nine-year military career, Brix protected his handlers, the president, vice president and other high-ranking officials, and deployed to Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Iraq.

"While he and I were deployed to Iraq, we were awarded a Navy Marine Corp Achievement Medal and a Marine Commendation Medal," said Navy Petty Officer First Class Christopher Ortiz, Master at Arms. "Brix earned the medal for safely protecting 110 tenant commands."


Military Working Dog is laid to rest

10/30/2013 - The 628th Security Forces Squadron Airmen hold a burial ceremony for military working dog Athos Oct. 24, 2013, at Joint Base Charleston – Air Base, S.C. Athos was born in August 1998 and passed away in October 2012. Athos served as an explosive detector dog for 11 years. He was returned to JB Charleston where his ashes were buried alongside his fellow military working dogs.


Team Osan honors life of MWD

1/7/2013 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Team Osan defenders came together to commemorate the life of military working dog, CChaos, the second oldest in the Department of Defense, in a memorial Dec. 20, 2012.

The last days of an Airman's best friend

12/13/2012 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- Two months ago, I spent a lot of time with the Military Working Dogs at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; learning about their mission, getting to know them and even allowing myself to overcome one of my greatest fears of being attacked by a dog during their training.

I had established a connection, not only with the handlers of the kennel, but with the dogs as well. Talking to the handlers allowed me to hear the stories each dog seemed to have. But one dog's story would soon be coming to an end. That dog's name was Jessey, and being with her during her final days would change me forever.


Handler Remembers K-9 Hero

10/11/2012 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Before his assignment to Minot AFB, Tech. Sgt. Steven Kaun, 5th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, was stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., with the 820th Security Forces Group as a handler.

In July 2007, Kaun was assigned to work with Gitta, a patrol explosive detector K-9 who had been a Specialized Search Dog wash-out.

Even though Gitta failed to complete the SSD training, she was recycled into the Patrol Explosive Detection Dog Program. She was then selected as one of five dogs to join the 820th SFG to become Department of Defense certified.

On Jan. 3, 2009 Kaun and Gitta were deployed to Afghanistan to assist the missions of unconventional units.

Holloman Mourns the Loss of Military Working Dog

10/11/2012 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Team Holloman Members said their goodbyes to one of their own at a memorial service here that rendered full military honors to a 49th Security Forces Squadron military working dog Oct. 11.

Roky/M628, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, died immediately following a demonstration Oct. 2 at Holloman Air Force Base,N.M. The cause of his death has not been determined at this time.