By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — A lone kennel sat empty at the center of the stage flanked by military working dog handlers and their companions. Service members and civilians stood at attention while the 21st Security Forces Squadron honored the passing of MWD Aio.
The solemn ceremony May 14 at the base auditorium also saw four military working dogs retiring from active service.
One at a time, the four MWDs being retired were led across the stage to be honorably discharged from active duty by the commanding officer. The total combined service time for military working dogs Asta, Endy, King and Paki total more than 41 years.
The ceremony continued honoring Aio, whose service was cut short when he developed cancer. His last day of watch was April 12. Aio’s handler, Staff Sgt. Albert Collister, performed the honor of packing Aio’s equipment into an empty kennel. The slamming cage door echoed through the auditorium as a haunting closure to Aio’s 8-year career.
“I spent three years with that dog (Aio), I spent more time with him than my own family,” Collister said then backed away for the podium.
The Working Dog Poem “God summoned a beast from the field” was then read aloud.
“Walk by his side: sleep in his doorway: forage for him, ward off his enemies, carry his burdens, share his afflictions; love him and comfort him.
“And in return for this, man will fulfill your needs and wants-which shall be only food, shelter and affection.
“So be silent, and be a friend to man. Guide him through the perils along the way to the land that I have promised him.” (Anonymous)
Three out of the four working dogs being retired will find a new life with their handlers. Each dog’s handler is given the option to adopt their companion before the dogs are put up for adoption.
Military service members are given the opportunity to adopt before the general public. The prerequisites for adopting one of these highly-trained and intelligent retired dogs are thorough. The military needs to assure that these dogs are going to spend the rest of their retirement with the right friend or family.
For information about adopting a retired military working dog go to http://www.militaryworkingdogadoptions.com/.