Military “Battle Buddies” Retired And Reunited With Their Best Friends
After retiring or being re-stationed, a military dog handler doesn’t always know whether or not they will see their working dog again. This can be a difficult adjustment for both the soldier and their dog. They were once constant companions and we are well aware of the incredibly strong bonds humans form with our four legged friends. Often, this is especially true for our soldiers in the military, as they worked side by side with their battle buddies in seriously stressful situations.
This is one of the main reasons that American Humane is committed to reuniting retired military hero dogs with their former handlers. It is extremely beneficial for both of them. Just recently, the organization successfully reunited Army Veteran Michael Stepnovich and U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Wade Alfson, with their four legged best friends. Their emotional interviews and heartwarming photos will surely make you smile.
“When a military dog is medically retired from service, it can be difficult for the military to track down their latest handler for adoption, let alone figure out how to transport the dog home. The expensive process involves a lot of paperwork, headaches, and red tape — and it’s usually not a priority,” said a representative from American Humane.
Army Specialist Michael Steponovitch recently retired from his military service and is currently living and working in Las Vegas, Nevada. Him and his patrol pal “Popeye” were inseparable for the entire 18 months they served together in South Korea. They even put in 2,000 hours of patrol missions together. But before their reunion, he hadn’t seen Popeye for four months.
It was obvious that the seven-year-old German Shepard missed his best friend. After Steponovitch left, Popeye started showing signs of severe separation anxiety, chewing his tail to the point of injury. Popeye was then removed from active duty, retired early, and has now been adopted by his former handler. These photos really say it all.
“He looks amazing. It was a really emotional moment for me. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s only been a few months for us, which is lucky, but it feels like it was a very long time. “I was just overwhelmed with joy to see him again.”
While Steponovitch and his patrol pal were only separated for a few months, U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Wade Alfson and his working dog “Xxanthe” were separated for an entire year after he was reassigned to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. The 10-year-old Belgian Malinois served with SSgt. Alfson for 18 months, including two tours to the Middle East on classified missions. Not only will the lucky pup spend the rest of her life with her best friend, but she now has a furry sibling. She joins a six-year-old Belgian Malinois who failed out of military training for being afraid of loud noises.
“Now that she’s retired, I mean, what a place to be retired into! I live two minutes from the beach, so Xxanthe, me, and my other dog will just take trips to the beach, hang out, just vibe in Hawaii.”
American Humane worked with Congress to require that military working dogs be brought back to the U.S. upon retirement and that their handlers and their families be given first rights of adoption. After everything these battle buddies have sacrificed for our country, American Humane works to make sure that canine veterans receive the hero’s welcome, dignified retirement, and loving forever home they deserve.
“American Humane is thrilled to bring these heroic military dogs home to reunite with their best friends. Xxanthe and Popeye bravely served our country, and we are honored to give them the beautiful retirements they deserve,” stated Dr. Robin Ganzert, the CEO of American Humane.”