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Man's best friends find new homes with familiar faces

  • Published
  • By Airman Malcolm Mayfield
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
From a young age, military working dogs are trained to defend the U.S. by patrolling for possible threats.

After a career of dedicated service, MWDs get the chance to live with their handlers, turning the MWD into man's best friend, showing that they form a bond with a handler stronger than any normal house pet.

"Working with a dog for a year or so you really start to understand their personality -- who this dog is and what his character and his temperaments are like," said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Goodridge, 90th Security Forces Squadron MWD Section kennel master. "That's what strengthens the bond."

MWDs begin their training at Lackland Air Force Base as young as one year of age with training lasting from 3 months to half a year, said Staff Sgt. Stephen Showmaker, 90th SFS MWD handler.

"Most dogs come out of Lackland very equipment oriented," Goodridge said, "It's our job to maintain and advance their training."

The dogs must maintain 95% proficiency during detection training; if they become ineffective, they may be retired, Goodridge said.

"In a real world event, we don't want these dogs missing anything, which is why they have to maintain the proficiency," Goodridge said.

On April 24, Goodridge discovered Nnimitz, a MWD with whom Goodridge previously worked, who was retiring due to a disorder of the adrenal gland.

"It was extremely exciting to have the chance to adopt Nnimitz," Goodridge said.

Goodridge flew to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 2 to attend Nnimitz' retirement ceremony and returned to Wyoming five days later reunited with his friend.

Kichi, a canine from the F.E. Warren Kennel, was likewise adopted in October by Showmaker.

"When I adopted him he couldn't walk three feet without falling down," Showmaker said.

Showmaker and Kichi patrolled F.E. Warren at night until Kichi eventually became night blind.

"We would go on patrols and he would fall over during a detection problem, he just couldn't walk anymore," Showmaker said.

Kichi is slowly going blind and has six herniated discs in his back.

Both dogs adjusted to being house pets extremely well, the handlers said.

"Kichi's like a regular house pet, he adjusted really well," Showmaker said. "He is disabled so I have to treat him as such, which means I can't do everything with him."

Considering their role in the profession of arms, the MWDs can sometimes end their careers with some personality traits that require special attention, Goodridge said.

"I was worried about Nnimitz when I took him home, dogs are rated on a certain status when they get adopted, and they rated him 'guarded' status, which means he's a little possessive of the toy," Goodridge said. "However, he adjusted really well. I have three kids and for the first week, I kept a close eye on him, but it was nowhere near what I thought I would have to do with training. He acts like one of the kids; he plays with them, licks their faces, and wakes them up in the morning."