by Senior Airman David Owsianka
51st Fighter Wing PAO
11/19/2014 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- When most service members retire from serving their country, they will begin a new career. Then there are those who have completed their service and are looking for a new home to live.
Once a Military Working Dog is no longer able to serve their country, they require a new family to adopt and take care of them for the rest of their lives.
"Adopting an MWD is important because these dogs serve their whole lives to support service members and serve overseas," said Master Sgt. Matthew Troiano, 51st Security Forces Squadron kennel master. "They deserve a break, they deserve to have someone take them home, have a good meal, and they deserve to have fun and play with toys. It's nice to take care of them after they have taken care of us for so long."
All MWD's are trained to detect drugs, explosives and accompany handlers on patrol at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX. The dogs are usually a German Shepard, Belgian Malinois, Labrador retriever and occasionally a mixed breed or other sporting/herding breed dog.
After the training, most MWD's will spend their entire career at one base.
"Just like we (people) serve and do our time in the military, then separate and live a civilian life, I believe MWD's should get that chance as well," said Senior Airman Tyler Sexton, 51st SFS MWD handler. "They serve their time and protect not only the handler but other people on and off base. MWD's do a very courageous job with no hesitation, and they do it while creating an everlasting bond with the people they protect."
There are a couple of different ways for an MWD to be retired. The MWD can become too old (approximately 10 years old) or become medically retired from service due to injury or sickness that will preclude them from performing the mission.
One MWD, who is currently in the process of being put up for adoption, is Fficher, 51st SFS MWD. Fficher, who is a Belgian Malinois, has served his entire seven-year career at Osan as a bomb and patrol dog. Fficher is being retired early due to heart problems that are going to prohibit him from performing future tasks.
The month long adoption process begins when an MWD becomes eligible for retirement. The kennel master will complete the necessary paperwork and create a video to show that the dog has no tendencies to aggress and is suitable for pet adoption.
The last part of the process is to find someone who is willing to adopt an MWD.
"Having the MWD adoption program gives these veterans the chance to be a dog without having to work," Sexton said. "This gives them the chance to be a dog, have a loving family and a huge yard to run in."
Troiano adopted a MWD named Steffi about a year ago.
"You can't tell the difference between her and another pet," he said. "They act just like a pet. They're happy and it's a good story to have when people say 'that's a cool dog, what kind of dog is that?' I tell them she is a retired MWD, and then people want to pet her and thank her for her service."