Retired MWDs looking for families, homes, couches

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Robert Klesges, who is looking to adopt a military working dog, meets with Sofi, a military working dog at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, June 26, 2019. Thousands of MWDs are stationed around the world placing themselves in harms way detecting bombs, land mines and subduing threatening people; all in the name of keeping Americans safe. (Courtesy photograph)

Fida served her country for almost five years as a military working dog. During the German Shepherd’s career, the European-born canine served as a combat tracker for the Marines and worked in detection training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, before medically retiring in 2013.

Thousands of MWDs are stationed around the world placing themselves in harm’s way detecting bombs, land mines and subduing threatening people; all in the name of keeping Americans safe.

When it was time for Fida to retire, Robert Klesges stepped up to the plate to adopt her and took her home to Tennessee.

“She was almost like a human with fur; she was that smart,” Klesges said. “She deserved to be treated like a queen.”

During her time with Klesges, Fida loved walks in parks and playing with children.

“She was the sweetest thing in the world,” Klesges said. “Fida was a child magnet.”

During one outing, Klesges recalled another dog trying to attack him and Fida sprang into action to protect him. Once the incident was over, he said Fida wanted to go and play with children again.

Robert Klesges, left, Jerry Britt, 341st Training Squadron adoptions and dispositions coordinator and Melissa Little, 59th Medical Wing behavioral health preventive medicine researcher, talk about the military working dog adoption process June 26, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Thousands of MWDs are stationed around the world placing themselves in harms way detecting bombs, land mines and subduing threatening people; all in the name of keeping Americans safe. (Courtesy photograph)

A veterinarian told Klesges Fida would live about two more years before her body simply wore out, but the retired four-legged warrior instead remained an important member of Klesges’ family for almost five.

Fida crossed the rainbow bridge earlier this year and Klesges decided to adopt another MWD to honor her. He returned to JBSA-Lackland in June 2019 to meet up with Jerry Britt, 37th Training Wing MWD dispositions coordinator.

“You get the satisfaction of giving the retired military working dog a good place to spend the twilight years,” Britt said.

Prospective adopters must fill out paperwork that includes questions about where the dog will live and if they will be cared for with necessary medications throughout their lives. The adoption process is different for every dog and can happen almost immediately or take up to two years.

Each dog’s welfare is important when it comes to making a good match. Since they can’t speak for themselves, Britt represents their interests. Canines are screened for aggressiveness, how they interact with people, children and other dogs before that final match is made, he said.

To be approved for a MWD adoption, applicants must have a 6-foot fence, no children under the age of 5 and no more than three dogs already in the home. They must also have a veterinarian listed on the application and two references.

Once paperwork is completed, the dog’s microchip ID number should be registered with a database prior to the dog leaving and potential adopters must also have an approved crate to transport them home.

Some of the adoptable canines come from the MWD puppy foster program, breeding program eliminations and training program. Retired and medically released canines are also eligible for adoption.

Jerry Britt, left, 341st Training Squadron adoptions and dispositions coordinator, Robert Klesges, a prospective adopter, and Melissa Little, 59th Medical Wing behavioral health preventive medicine researcher, pose for a photo with Sofi, a military working dog at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, June 26, 2019. (Courtesy photograph)

While there is demand to adopt puppies that don’t advance in the training program, older retired dogs bring great obedience and good manners even though they have limited longevity, Britt added.

No matter what amount of time Klesges will have with his next canine companion, he is ready to adopt the dog who deserves a great retirement. He will allow Britt to make the final pairing, he said.

“It will have to be a dog that has very good obedience,” said Britt, who watches over countless dogs every day as he looks for the right one for Klesges and other adopters.

For now, Klesges will wait for the call that will tell him his next walking canine partner has been selected. He’ll return to JBSA-Lackland and fly home with his new companion seated next to him as retired MWDs are permitted to travel in the cabin. Once they land, they’ll head off to the park and start a new chapter together.

For more information on the MWD adoption program, email mwd.adoptions@us.af.mil or call 210-671-6766.