Popular adages may promise every dog its day, but the sad reality is canines that serve in the US military — sniffing out bombs, mines and other explosive devices — aren’t even guaranteed return transport after multiple tours of duty overseas.
Often, they are left behind with new owners abroad when their handlers return home.
“The dogs and these veterans work side by side. To separate them, I think, is a crime,” says Lois Pope, a longtime veterans advocate who began lobbying last year to return all four-legged defenders to the states for adoption by the servicement with whom they’d bonded.
Since April the American Humane Association — along with Mission K9 Rescue and the US War Dogs Association — has facilitated the reunion of 20 retired military dogs with their loving human veterans.
For the first time, six of these heroic duos will be honored on a float in the Veterans Day Parade this Tuesday.
Here’s why these canines deserve your applause and respect:
Ryky, 8, Belgian Malinois
As a detection dog, Ryky’s job was to sniff out IEDs. After helping injured soldiers escape an ambush in Afghanistan, she was given the K9 Medal for Exceptional Service. She now resides in Mandeville, La., with Staff Sgt. James Harrington, 37, who says, “I no doubt would not be alive if it weren’t for her.”
Maxi, 13, Belgian Malinois
After multiple tours detecting explosives, Maxi worked for two years as a military police dog with Cpl. Jonathan Cavender, 23, in Iwakuni, Japan.
Cavender, who now lives in Houston, Texas, describes their bond working together as “unlike anything else in my life,” adding that he was “happy beyond words” to learn he could care for Maxi as she begins her retirement.
Fieldy, 7, Black Lab
As a contract working dog, Fieldy served alongside Cpl. Nick Caceres for four years in Afghanistan. “The biggest memory would be the first IED we found,” remembers Caceres, 28. “That event sealed our bond.”
After a three-year separation, Fieldy now lives with Caceres at his home in McAllen, Texas, following an emotional recent reunion. “I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to give him the best retirement,” says Caceres. “I put my life in his paws.”
Cena, 7, Black Lab
Cpl. Jeff DeYoung Jr. and Cena bonded during Operation Moshtarak, where they were some of the first Marines into Marjah, Afghanistan, to clear it of the Taliban threat, and where DeYoung Jr. once carried Cena over his shoulders through a flooded river.
“I would do anything for him,” says DeYoung Jr., 24. The team now lives together in Muskegon, Mich.
Cila, 7, Chocolate Lab
This loving canine served alongside Staff Sgt. Jason Bos in the Army military police for nearly five years — including a 12-month tour as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008 and 2009.
After Bos’ deployment ended in 2012, he was separated from his “battle buddy” for nearly two years, until being reunited at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in April 2014. The happy pair now live together in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Mariah, 6, Black Lab
Mariah worked alongside Sgt. Oscar Peña in Afghanistan where she detected explosives, which allowed Marines to set an ambush for the insurgents at night. Peña, 25, was separated from Mariah for four years before the pair was reunited in El Paso, Texas.
“I’m glad to see recognition for the dogs that did so much but don’t get credit,” he says.
— Courtesy of the NY Post