554th MP Co. war dog returns home to rest
December 13, 2010
STUTTGART, Germany -- In the military community, it\'s customary to honor fallen defenders of freedom. In U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, the 554th Military Police Company extended the tradition to a military working dog. Bodie, a MWD who began her military career on July 31, 2003, was euthanized Oct. 14.
The 554th MP Co. K-9 Section held a memorial ceremony to honor the war veteran Nov. 24 in the Panzer Community Chapel.
Over her career, the 10-year-old black and tan German shepherd completed five six-month combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
She was on her sixth deployment in Afghanistan when her tour was abruptly interrupted.
After arriving on Oct. 1, Bodie's handler, Sgt. Richard Rivera, 554th MP Co. K-9 Section, noticed signs of fatigue in his dog.
"Bodie's body began to swell around the abdomen, taking on the shape of a pear as each day passed," he said.
After two weeks of observation and tests by a local veterinarian, the prognosis wasn't good: Bodie had the equivalent of gradual heart failure. Bodie was medically evacuated to the Dog Center Europe, at the U.S. Army Europe Regional Veterinary Command in Kaiserslautern.
As Rivera brought Bodie back to Germany, he prepared himself for the worst.
"Did I want to believe it' No," Rivera said, recalling the day he received the news that it was time to end Bodie's suffering. But he said he didn't want to see her suffer a minute longer.
Not every handler gets to say good-bye to their partner, but Rivera did.
He recounted his farewell. Rivera said he took a final look into Bodie's dark brown eyes and she looked back. Rivera said he could see her pain, and he said goodbye.
There's a bond between a dog and its handler that only the handler can explain, said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Rosenthal, the 554th MP Kennel Master who planned Bodie's memorial.
Rosenthal said a working dog is assigned multiple handlers throughout its career. Bodie had five. (She partnered with Rivera for 17 months).
However, each handler earns the unconditional loyalty from his or her dog until its last breath, he added. Bodie's partner was Sgt. Rivera, and the memorial gave him, along with friends, colleagues, and community leaders, a chance to grieve, said Rosenthal.
It's tradition at a military funeral to display a pair of combat boots, an inverted rifle, a helmet and dog tags. For Bodie's memorial, an open dog crate with her leash, collar and water bucket was placed on the chapel altar.
During the memorial, USAG Stuttgart Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ken Bellinger gave the invocation, and Rosenthal, the eulogy.
Rivera then read "Guardians of the Night," a working dog's poem, which was followed by a video of Rivera and Bodie training and working together.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the memorial was when three bells rang, one after the other, symbolizing Bodie's call home. The first ring signified calling out to the dog to start her journey home; the second bell signified that Bodie was home for the last time; and the third bell signified that she had laid her head down to rest.
As taps began, Rivera walked up to the crate and placed one of Bodie's play toys on top of the crate. He slowly closed the door and rendered a salute.
Military working dog Bodie Tattoo E075 leaves behind a legacy - and paw print - as a trusted patrol and explosive detection expert for the USAG Stuttgart community and the Soldiers of the 554th MP Co.