JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
The stage was set at the Joint Base Charleston theater. Flags stood tall and chairs were empty on the stage. People sat in the audience, patiently waiting for the retirement ceremony to begin. However, this wasn’t just a usual retirement ceremony, it was a Military Working Dog retirement.
After years of being valuable and significant tools for the military, MWDs Jaga, Chico and Shark, three of Joint Base Charleston’s MWDs, retired Feb. 23, 2018.
“We call this ‘giving them a couch’ because every dog deserves a couch. We try to give them the best life we can after retirement. It’s only right to let them live like a dog should live,” explained Airman 1st Class Carly Dykeman, 628th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. “During the retirement ceremony we give them meritorious service medals, retirement pins and a bone.”
The normal duties of a military working dog depend on the dog’s certification, such as detection in narcotics or explosives. Ultimately, their service is a tool, which is used by service members, to perform their duties as detectors.
“Walking into a Pizza Hut, you and I may smell pizza. Every human who walks in will smell pizza – these dogs don’t. They actually smell every ingredient in the pizzas,” mentioned Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lee, 628th SFS MWD trainer. “They can break down the odors we can’t. If there’s something in this theater, the dog is going to smell it. The only way our lives are going to be saved is because of the dog. They are lifesavers.”
MWD Shark was the only retiree in attendance. He served 10 years as a narcotic detection dog. He has since been adopted by his previous handler. MWD Chico served for approximately six years as a patrol and explosive detection dog. Chico wasn’t in attendance because he was adopted by his previous handler who resides in Ohio. Lastly, MWD Jaga served five years as a patrol and explosive detection dog. Unfortunately, she passed away from cancer before her retirement ceremony was held.
“It’s an honor for them because not many dogs reach retirement,” Lee said. “MWD Jaga passed away because of cancer. She was supposed to be here, fortunately she did retire with her handler for a short period of time. MWD Shark just hit that age limit. This retirement ceremony is a chance for us to honor these dogs.”
Just like military service, a person can serve 20 years and retire. Military Working Dogs earn those same rewards. With a combined service of almost two decades, now these retired MWDs can be active couch potatoes.