Military dog honored
Friends of Renzo say goodbye to nine-year veteran
By Pierrette J. Shields
The Daily Times-Call
Dominic Puzo, who served in the U.S. Navy, takes a moment to say farewell after a memorial service Wednesday for Renzo, a Belgian Malinois, who served with Jason Martinez in the U.S. Marines Corp. Martinez adopted the dog after both were discharged, then adopted the dog out to Puzo in September. Renzo died Monday at age 11 and was honored at the Longmont Humane Society, where he will be cremated.
LONGMONT — Dressed in his Navy fatigues, Dominic Puzo on Wednesday kneeled in the pet cemetery with his right hand pressed firmly into the fur of his dog Renzo, who died Monday.
Puzo then stood to his full height and raised his hand to his brow in a crisp salute.
Renzo, a Belgian Malinois, was a military working dog for nine years and served as a narcotics dog with both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps before he retired in July.
“We were always told to treat them as though they were one rank higher than us,” said Jason Martinez, who was one of Renzo’s handlers in the Marines and adopted him when the dog retired. “So, to us, he was a sergeant.”
Martinez noted the military regards trained animals as equipment, so they are often put to sleep when they retire. However, Renzo was allowed to be adopted because he had a good temperament.
Martinez adopted Renzo in July, but had to give him up because Martinez and his wife had a baby and the dog and baby did not get along well.
So Martinez set out to find someone to take Renzo and was determined to find an owner who was familiar with military dog handling.
He found that person in Puzo, who answered an ad offering Renzo for adoption.
Puzo, a Longmont native, served in Iraq and elsewhere while in the Navy and finished his four-year tour of duty in early August. He was living in Gulfport, Miss., when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. Puzo and a friend evacuated before the storm hit and made their way to Puzo’s parents’ Longmont home.
Renzo’s retirement papers note the dog was certified as a narcotics-detection dog at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and was then assigned to McClellan Air Force Base in California
When the base was closed, Renzo was reassigned to the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, Calif. Martinez worked there with Renzo for about nine months.
The dog was credited with helping to take 15,000 pounds of narcotics out of circulation.
“That is a lot of drugs and a lot of lives that he saved,” Martinez said.
Puzo presented Renzo’s collar to Martinez on Wednesday while they stood among a crowd of friends and family at the Fry Memorial Pet Cemetery at the Longmont Humane Society. He and Navy recruiter Michael Rutledge also folded an American flag and presented it to Martinez.
“I give him all the credit,” Puzo said of Renzo. “He was a hero.”
Renzo was 11 years old. His body lay in a doggie bed at the cemetery during Wednesday’s informal ceremony. Puzo said the Longmont Humane Society would cremate the animal for free because of his military service.
Puzo said he would like to adopt another retired military working dog because they should be kept by trained handlers.
Marine dog handlers in Iraq mourn death of colleague
Sgt. Adam L. Cann killed in suicide blast in Ramadi
By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, January 9, 2006
Courtesy of Joseph Manning
Marine Sgt. Adam L. Cann, who was killed in a suicide attack in Ramadi on Thursday, is remembered by fellow Marines as a consummate professional. “I never met a better Marine doing what he did,” one of his fellow dog handlers recalled.
RAMADI, Iraq — Marine Sgt. Adam L. Cann had less than two months to go before he finished his second tour in Iraq, and the 23-year-old military dog handler told friends that he and his trusty German Shepherd, Bruno, would be right back for a third.
“He loved it out here,” said fellow Marine dog handler Cpl. Allen Swartwoudt, 27, of Austin, Texas. “He was looking forward to coming back immediately.”
Cann, a native of Davie, Fla., died Thursday as he was helping to control crowds outside of an Iraqi police recruitment and screening center at the sprawling Ramadi Glass Factory. He was attached to the 2nd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Force Services Support Group, the Marine Corps said.
A disturbance had broken out among hundreds of police volunteers late Thursday morning after warning shots were fired at an approaching vehicle. Cann, Bruno and two other dog handlers and their hounds had just helped to restore order before a suicide bomber detonated an explosives vest, killing Cann, Army Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin, 27 Iraqi police volunteers and two Iraqi army soldiers.
The blast also injured the two other dog handlers and their dogs.
Bruno suffered injuries as well. He will be flown back to the U.S. for treatment and returned to service if he fully recovers.
On Sunday, friends described Cann as a dedicated and knowledgeable dog handler who could never sit for very long inside camp. He was happiest when he and his dog were outside the wire, hard at work, they said.
“He did it for the guy next to him,” said Cpl. Brian Treille, 22, another dog handler from Hardin, Texas. “He was always about being out there with the fellas. He didn’t have to come out here. He could have been a trainer back home.”
While military dog handlers back in the U.S. usually place their dogs in kennels for the evening, handlers in Iraq live with their animals full time. “They’re kind of like house pets — they sleep on your bed, you feed them beef jerky,” Swartwoudt said.
In Cann’s case, his relationship was even closer. He had worked with Bruno for five or six years, including a tour in Afghanistan. “He’d been with Bruno for quite a while,” Treille said.
Military dog handlers in Iraq are a small but close-knit group, and word of Cann’s death left them stunned. Their mission is to assist in crowd control and raids and to sniff out explosives.
Cann’s friends said that up until recently, their tours had been without serious injury or death. This deployment, though, has been different. In addition to Cann’s death, another dog handler was shot by a sniper two months ago. He survived.
“Because there are only a few of us, it seems improbable or unlikely this would happen to any of us,” Swartwoudt said. “It seems like we do our job and go home.”
Treille and Swartwoudt were planning a memorial service for Jan. 14. On a laptop computer, they clicked through photos of Cann and Bruno on missions and playing around.
Cann told them that when he finished with the Marines, he was considered moving back to Florida to open up a restaurant with his brother — a bar and grill.
Up until a few days ago, though, Cann’s retirement from K-9 operations seemed a long way off.
“He loved dog training,” Trielle said. “He took it very seriously. I’ve never met a better Marine doing what he did.”
Injured Airman and her bomb dog now a permanent team
Blackanthem Military News, PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., January 12, 2006 13:31
Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana and her former military working dog, Rex, met Maj. (Dr.) Paul Morton at an animal sanctuary where the sergeant volunteers. Major Morton helped save Sergeant Dana's life after an improvised explosive device detonated under her Humvee near Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. Major Morton is with the 10th Medical Group at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Sergeant Dana is with the 21st Security Forces Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo)
A team that trained together, deployed together and was injured by a roadside bomb together will now stay together thanks to a coordinated effort by Air Force and Congressional leaders.
Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana may now officially adopt her military working dog, Rex, after asking top Air Force leaders for permission to do so.
"This has been a team effort between both houses of Congress and I’m just glad to see that there’s a happy ending," said Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. "Sergeant Dana is an outstanding young Airman who has sacrificed a lot for her country and allowing her to adopt Rex was the right thing to do."
Originally, the law prohibited the adoption because Rex was still considered useful to the military. Recognizing the need to do the right thing, Congressional leadership quickly drafted legislation, clearing the road to make the adoption possible.
"We appreciate the members of the Congressional Defense Committees whose extraordinary efforts helped make this happen," said General Moseley.
The president recently signed the legislation and Air Force leaders expedited the process to make the adoption official yesterday.
An adoption ceremony is planned for Friday at 11:30 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. For more information, contact the 21st Space Wing Public Affairs at (719) 556-4698.
Source : Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Public Affairs
Washington -- They had trained together for three years in the military and were deployed overseas side by side. In June, they arrived in Iraq, where they worked as a team scouring houses and villages for hidden explosives. Then, one afternoon, riding back from a mission, a roadside bomb went off under their humvee.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana was critically injured -- bleeding internally, her lungs collapsed, her spine fractured, her pelvis broken. In her last moment of consciousness, she asked in desperation about her comrade. "Where's Rex?" she pleaded. When no one answered, she grabbed a medic's arm. "Where's my dog?! Is he dead?"
The medic told her that he was. "I felt like my heart broke," she recalled in an interview. "It's the last thing I remember."
Weeks passed before Dana absorbed the news that the medic was mistaken and that Rex was alive. The German shepherd was burned slightly on his nose but was not seriously injured. Dana teetered at life's edge, with doctors unable to assure her husband and parents that she would survive.
Not long after she started to rally from her injuries, Dana asked Air Force leaders if she could adopt Rex. The answer was no; it was against the rules, and Rex was still valuable to the military.
Now, the Air Force has changed its view -- but federal law stands in the way.
Under Title 10 U.S. Code 2583, the Air Force says, it cannot allow the wounded airman to take her combat dog home until the animal is too old to be useful. Rex, 80 pounds and brown and black with gold markings, is just 5 years old, not nearly the retirement age of 10 to 14.
It will take an act of Congress to pave the way for Rex to stay with Dana. For the time being, he is with her on leave and will return with her this week to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, where the 26-year-old sergeant is stationed. Walking with a cane because of nerve damage in her legs and feet, Dana expects to take a desk job while military medical boards consider whether she should retire.
"He's my best friend," she said. "I thought he was dead, and I was almost dead, and that made the feeling to be with him a lot stronger."
In Congress, several lawmakers have taken up her cause, including Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who is working to attach a provision that would allow Rex's adoption to a defense appropriations bill. The measure is expected to emerge from a conference committee by the middle of next month and must face votes in both the House and Senate.
"This young lady came as close to death as you can come and still be alive," said Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., who lobbied on her behalf. "She was extremely seriously wounded ... and I think a person who came that close to death deserves to have the dog who went through it with them. ... I think that's the least we can do for her."
Air Force officials say support for granting Dana's request has grown in recent weeks. "You add things up, and this is the right thing to do," said Brig. Gen. Robert Holmes, Air Force director of security forces and force protection.
Dana said the Air Force has turned down her request twice. Adopting Rex, officials said in an Oct. 21 letter to Peterson, would not be "a legal or advisable use of Air Force assets, in spite of the sentimental value and potential healing effects it might produce."
Rex was a MWD -- military working dog -- the letter said, with "5 to 9 years of good use" left. "MWDs are worth about $18K ($18,000) out of training. Consequently, Rex is very valuable to both the unit and the Air Force."
About three weeks ago, Dana saw a change of heart, she said, as she prepared to be discharged from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She was called to the Pentagon, and Gen. T. Michael Moseley hinted that she and Rex might be together again after all. Later that day, she received a phone call with the news that Rex could join her on a leave to see her family in Pennsylvania.
"I was shocked," she said, but she tried not to get her hopes up.
Air Force officials said that as family friends and members of Congress weighed in on Dana's behalf, Moseley, who was to become the Air Force's new chief of staff, took a strong interest. His view, Holmes said, was that "she's a wounded warrior. They went through this together; they need to heal together."
Dana said it was hard to imagine life without Rex.
A friend brought the dog to see her in the hospital as soon as Dana was out of intensive care. When she heard them coming in the hallway, she whistled -- and Rex made a rush for her, leaping into her bed and tangling himself in her intravenous tubes.
"I just wanted to touch him and pet him and feel him and know he was OK," she said.
Before their service in Iraq, Dana and Rex had been deployed to Pakistan for six months in 2004, sharing a tent and together "24/7," Dana said. Although Rex is skilled at detecting explosives, he is not as physically aggressive as many of his counterparts, she said -- not naturally inclined to "run after someone and grab ahold of him."
Especially in hostile zones, she said, "you want him to be ready to bite someone ... I never knew if my dog would."
Still, Dana said she was happy to have him in Iraq. They were together almost always -- on humvee missions, on walking patrols, at night amid the sound of incoming mortars.
The idea of going to war had been hers. "I had begged for it," she said. "I wanted to deploy. ... You want to feel like you're a part of it, not watching it on TV."
She has no second thoughts, even after nearly losing her life. "I just regret I wasn't there longer," she said. Her injury came three weeks into her deployment.
A farm girl from Pennsylvania who joined the military right out of high school, Dana became part of Air Force police forces eight years ago and later specialized as bomb dog handler. Her husband, Michael, is also in the Air Force.
Now, with her life entirely changed, she plans to become a veterinarian -- and she wants Rex to be with her. "I'm waiting to see what happens," she said, adding that she's not counting on the legislative efforts "until I have it in writing that he's mine."
You served your country well
Thanks for posting this.
RIP Cora. You were the best K9 I ever met and are remembered.