Fort Gregg-Adams handler, canine conclude Army service, forge new relationship as owner, pet
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Dog handler Cpl. Amy Maulo poses with Batman at her home recently. Batman is a former military working dog who was retired in June then adopted by Maulo. In their life as owner-pet, Maulo takes Batman for morning walks, but the canine spends most of his time laying on the couch. Assigned to Fort Gregg-Adams' 544th Military Police Detachment, Maulo was Batman’s handler for four of the past five years. She is scheduled to leave the Army in September. Both are adjusting to their new lives. (photo by Cpl. Amy Maulo) (Photo Credit: Cpl. Amy Maulo) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Gregg-Adams handler, canine conclude Army service, forging new relationship as owner, pet
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Batman as a pup in 2016. The German shepherd, formerly assigned to the 544th Military Police Detachment, was recently retired and is now a pet. The now-nine-year-old was adopted Cpl. Amy Maulo, his handler for four of the past five years. (photo by T. Anthony Bell) (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT GREGG-ADAMS – Soldiers ending military careers often do so with some measure of fanfare.

Not so much for Military Working Dogs.

Batman, a nine-year old black and brown male German Shepherd, was recently retired following nearly a decade of service to the nation. Those who knew the cape-less crusader most likely commemorated the occasion with a few head-pats and “atta-boys.”

At least one person figured Batman deserved more. Cpl. Amy Maulo, his handler for four of the past five years, adopted him, pushing aside the alternatives – including possible euthanasia – to provide a loving and caring environment for a canine who has done more than his share.

“I do see him as somebody who has earned his rest because he’s been good to every handler who’s had him,” she said, “and he’s taught many new handlers how to be a handler.”

Maulo was one of them. The 31K MWD handler was straight out of the schoolhouse when she arrived at the 544th Military Police Detachment here in 2018. Batman, a drug detection dog trained at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, had already been on the narcotics beat two years.

Additionally, Batman was as disciplined as they come, known to accommodate the greenest rookie handlers. Maulo saw positives and negatives in her partner’s temperance.

“It definitely made me feel confident, but it also made me feel really inferior because people don’t think you’re a good handler when you have what we call a ‘push button dog,’” Maulo said. “That’s when they know everything. People think, ‘Oh, anything you get that dog to do, you must not be that great of a handler because he’s already so obedient.’”

Maulo, who grew up an animal lover in Vacaville, Calif., formed a bond with Batman and certified with him several times.

Because he was so obedient, however, Maulo’s skills suffered, and she needed to part ways with Batman. She was assigned to another dog who was more of a challenge as a partial condition of promotion.

She came to regret the change.

“She wasn’t the greatest and she and I didn’t click very well,” she recalled. “I wanted the promotion, but after spending time with her, I realized I missed Batman too much. I made a mistake. I missed my buddy. I felt lost.”

Had Maulo become too close to Batman? Although she was “affectionate” with the dog and the two had an undeniable bond, Maulo said she was careful not to push her “boundaries and not treat him like a pet.”

Nevertheless, she longed for his presence. The once-deployed Batman was returned to Maulo after about a year.

“I thought I was making the right decision by taking a step up, but then I realized that life doesn’t that always have to be about progression,” she said in retrospect. “It’s my choice; it’s my life and so I needed to follow my heart. … I was very lucky to get Batman back…. He’s such a people person; he was completely content being with that other handler.”

When Batman’s leash was handed back to Maulo, it was like receiving a gift box holding calm and stability wrapped in bows of joy.

“It was complete excitement when I got him back,” she recalled. “You know the feeling you get when you’re a kid and your parents get you that thing you wanted for so long for your birthday and you have that

excitement? It was that. I remember going into his run and sitting down with him and having him lay on my lap for hours. It was the best decision I ever made.”

That was more than a year ago. Batman, at nine years old, was subject this year to an official assessment to determine his fitness for continued service. Physically, he was spent and receiving heavy doses of medication to alleviate the pain from a lifetime of running through obstacle courses, sniffing and whiffing through training sessions and searching wall lockers, duffel bags and other items during real-world missions.

“It was determined he was too old for physical therapy to really do a whole lot,” said Maulo. “Plus, we weren’t hurting on dogs. We had plenty at the kennels. He wasn’t needed for the mission.”

Batman was retired in June. Maulo, who decided some time ago she would not reenlist, is due to leave the Army in September. She adopted Batman and became his owner over the summer.

Today, Batman feels right at home with his owner and former handler. It has been blissful, she said.

“Just being able to see him every single day,” she said, noting her affections for Batman can now flow freely without restraint. “That (feels good) to a great extent. A little side note is every time I get on the couch, he wants to cuddle. He comes over and, like, lies his body next to mine and just sleeps there for hours. He’s a completely different dog.”

Now, Batman is a pet, living without the pressures and rigors of work. He has eased into a life he previously could never have due to the obligations of his service.

“I treat him like he was never a working dog,” she said. “The day we bought him home, we took him to (a local pet store) and let him pick out any toys he wanted and let him choose his bed. We pulled out a ton of beds from the shelf and let him lay on each one until he chose one.”

That was not all.

“He also gets snacks now because they’re not allowed to have snacks when they’re working dogs,” Maulo continued. “And I don’t make him do any sort of work. I don’t require anything of him. That’s done. He’s earned his rest.”

Indeed, after nine years probing and sniffing for drugs, “every dog has its day.”