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Defenders share a union with four-legged wingmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jonathan McElderry
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

As the door gradually opened, a series of howls echoed through the hallway.

Eagerly barking, an Airman watched her partner approach her ready to start the day. As her wingman stopped in front of her, she immediately began spinning, jumping and whining.

“They’re always so excited to see us from the moment we walk toward their kennels,” said Senior Airman Angel Flores, smiling as he thought about his companion, MWD Kety, a nine year-old German shepherd. “That’s how it is being military working dog handlers.”

Flores, one of nine 5th Security Forces Squadron MWD handlers, begins his day by guiding his partner outside to perform their daily duties. These include patrol, detection and scout training.

Since day one, Flores and Kety have trained together to help strengthen their relationship and create a cohesive team. The two have been together for seven months in which they’ve grown a bond strong enough to completely be in sync with each other.

“We have this saying of ‘things travel down the leash’, which basically means that our mood affects our dog’s mood,” Flores said. “For example, if I’m in a bad mood then it’s going to put Kety in a bad mood too so I always try to stay positive when I’m around her.”

Flores added that despite initially being unfamiliar with each other, Kety attached herself to him like she was his own dog. Even to this day, their connection keeps growing.

“Kety isn’t just a dog, she’s like family,” Flores said. “I wish I could take her home every day because when you build a bond like this, you start getting more attached as time passes. There are times when I find myself talking about Kety outside of work.”

Likewise, Staff Sgt. Heather Johnson, 5th SFS MWD trainer, has a deep relationship that’s lasted for years with another nine year-old German shepherd, MWD Cyndy.

Johnson, also a handler, became Cyndy’s partner in 2013 and worked together for about two years. They reunited in March 2017, a moment Johnson remembers like it was yesterday.

“I was over the moon when they told me I was going back with Cyndy,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t wipe that smile off of my face for days and as soon as we got back together we just picked up right where we left off.”

Johnson added that they have a unique connection after being teammates for so long.

“If I’m not at work, she’s here waiting for me,” Johnson said. “As soon as she hears my footsteps she knows it’s me and not another handler coming in. That’s how in tune she is with me.”

Johnson also mentioned that her bond with Cyndy stems from the time they’ve spent together, both on and off duty.

“She’s my baby, my first K-9,” Johnson said. “I even come in a lot during my time off just to sit with her and see how she’s doing.”

As Johnson reflected on her experiences working with Cyndy, she expressed her honor of what their partnership means.

“We’re part of a team,” Johnson said. “With all the time we’ve spent together and the experiences we’ve shared, it feels monumental. We’re a part of something bigger than us and that’s what makes it so enriching and awesome for me.”