Two sides to every tail

by Senior Airman Colville McFee, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Stripes Korea

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Stella is a military working dog with the 8th Security Forces Squadron, and her body is a reflection of just how tough the course of a career can be. The difference between her and the younger dogs is noticeable; she has a much more mellow temper and less spunk in her walk.

Like all Air Force MWDs, Stella’s career began at Lackland AFB where all dogs go through initial training before being permanently assigned to a unit.

From Lackland, Stella became a part of the 8th SFS at Kunsan, a place she’s called home for the past six years.

Her career, primarily working as a drug detection dog, is now in its final chapter. Those six years of agility and bite training as well as the normal daily grind of being an MWD caught up with her this year.

She was recently diagnosed with lumbosacral disease, a degenerative disorder that affects the spinal cord and the spinal nerve roots, in September of 2016.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Majorana, 8th SFS MWD noncommissioned officer in charge, was the first to notice Stella had a limp in her leg, prompting him to get her a medical exam. The results confirmed the disease, ultimately putting her on a path to retirement.

“Dogs don’t have voices; we are their voices,” said Majorana.. “We have to pay attention to them and work with them .They show you signs; you just have to pay attention. Military working dogs are not equipment [to us]. They are family.”

A handler and their dog take up the responsibility of protecting and defending the base. It is a vital mission, which requires spending countless hours training together and learning how to be an effective team.

“It’s like working with a child,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Tarantella, 8th SFS military working dog handler. “You learn something new [about each other] every day. Everything revolves around the dog. Training the dogs and working with the dogs takes time.”

It was Tarantella who decided to adopt Stella, and even though they did not work together, they quickly developed an inseparable bond.

Fortunately, the Air Force allows MWDs to be adopted out, allowing Tarantella to give Stella a new life outside the military and a good home to be a part of.

The Air Force tries pairing prior MWD handlers with dogs first because of their experience with them. However, anyone can adopt these dogs.

“These dogs make huge sacrifices for the military,” said Majorana. “They want a life like anyone else after they serve. They want to eat a T-bone, run around and have fun and just enjoy life.”

With a service member, it’s sometimes easier to recognize when they need care after the military, but dogs have no voice to ask for that care. They’ve sacrificed so much and deserve to have a place they can call home to live out the rest of their years in peace and happiness.

Soon Tarantella will be heading to Texas to work in the MWD school house at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and Stella will be right by his side, retiring in the place where it all started for her.

For more information on how to adopt a MWD visit these sites or contact the nearest base for more information.

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