Dog retires after serving 68 years in US Department of Defence

A U.S. Air Force dog, Jony, serving with the 20th Security Forces Squadron, has retired after nine years, or 68 dog years, of distinguished service, the U.S. Department of Defence has said.

Pentagon, in a statement, said Jony retired due to a compressed disc in his spine, and has been permanently put in the hands of its handler, Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Despins, a military working dog handler, who met Jony as his first canine partner in 2012.

“Together, the two used their individual skill sets to make a formidable team, eventually becoming certified as an explosives detection and patrol unit to keep people around the world safe and their fellow airmen out of harm’s way,” Pentagon said.

Pentagon quoted Despins as saying that “Jony was really excited, always happy to see people and very energetic.

“Even back then, Jony knew what was expected of him and how to do his job.

“Jony’s performance during his initial training determined what certifications he received; military working dogs can receive narcotics and explosives credentials as well as certification as a patrol dog.

“All their physical traits: their sight, their hearing, their nose, their speed, their teeth, dogs bring so much to the table – things we can’t do and the equipment we’re provided can’t do.

“Although the physical traits are necessary for success, it takes more than just advanced senses for a dog to pass initial training.

“They must be able to listen to commands. If they can’t do that they’ll automatically be disqualified. Some dogs just don’t have the drive.”

According to Pentagon, after Despins, Jony served with five other handlers, including Air Force Sgt. Kevin Davis Jr., and the pair were deployed to Afghanistan together in 2013.

The Pentagon described Jony’s period with the military as a “distinguished service”.

“During one of his deployments, Jony went on more than 60 missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, finding six explosives and enduring five firefights.

“Jony also went on seven explosive detection missions with the Secret Service in support of the president and vice president of the United States.

“Thanks to Jony’s acute sense of smell, Davis and his team were able to come back home to their families.”

According to Davis, the unwavering faith between military working dogs and handlers is not left behind on the battlefield.

“They’re wingmen. Not only are they there through the thick and thin, the good times and the bad times, they’re there to protect and they’re there to watch out for you,” he said.

According to Davis, the bond is incomparable to any other.

“You can create a facade as you’re going through your day to day. However the dog knows; they know when something’s not right or if you feel down or depressed and are just trying to keep a straight face,” Davis said.

Air Force Staff Sergeant Robert Coughlin, another military working dogs handler with the Squadron, said: “Dogs would sacrifice and do anything for their handler.

“It doesn’t matter what it is. They have no fear of what they go into as far as the danger.”

Pentagon said Air Force Staff Sergeant Kathryn McCarthy, also a military working dogs handler, read a poem titled “Guardians of the Night,” dedicated to military working dogs and their service, and traditionally read at their retirement ceremonies, in honour of Jony.

At his pulling out ceremony, Pentagon said the sun was rising as Jony took his “last ride” in a patrol truck around the kennel, allowing him to say goodbye to his family of handlers, fellow military working dogs and the base he has worked hard to protect.

“Friends, family and those who may have only known Jony through his acts of courage gathered to commemorate nine years, or 68 dog years, of distinguished service.

“Jony barks throughout the ceremony, joining the crowd in celebration of his accomplishments.

“Like so many airmen before him, Jony receives a retirement pin to symbolise his transition from an active-duty service member to retiree.

“Unlike most airmen, Jony is also presented with a bone to symbolize his transition from the kennel to the couch, reclaiming his place at the side of an old familiar friend.

“After nine years of service alongside several partners, Jony’s leash is relinquished and permanently put in Despins hands, and together the two go home,” Pentagon said.

According to Despins, Jony is more than a dog.

“I don’t look at Jony as a pet or as an animal. I look at him as more than that. He’s like my best friend, even though he can’t talk back,” Despins said.

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