JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
The playing of the colors, the reading of career accomplishments and being hand-fed a treat from your presiding officer. That’s the scene for a military working dog retirement ceremony which the 628th Security Forces Squadron held for K9s Elmo and Tze, Nov 22, 2019 at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
Elmo served honorably for 10 years before retiring due to age and back problems while Tze’s career was cut a bit shorter at seven years due to back problems of his own. Both now live comfortably with their former handlers after serving their country honorably.
“They’ve both been on countless secret service missions protecting high ranking government officials,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Merrigan, 628th SFS MWD handler and Tze’s former handler. “They’re just awesome dogs and I’m happy they get to go home.”
Both had years of honorable service and a couple of deployments under their belt. For example, Elmo made a significant discovery while deployed with an outside unit, saving countless lives thanks to his bomb-sniffing abilities.
“I wasn’t with him at the time, he was deployed with Army Special Forces,” said Staff Sgt. Jenings Casey, 628th SFS MWD training supervisor and Elmo’s former handler. “They were tracking a high value target and finally found where he was and there were traps around the hut where the target was making bombs and Elmo found the trap that ended up being about a 200-pound bomb. Had he not found it, the entire team would’ve died.”
It wasn’t all work for the two K9s, however. Some of Casey and Merrigan’s fondest memories were more about time together bonding than working.
“It’s more of a funny story, last year we got tasked to go to West Palm Beach for a protection mission for President Trump,” said Merrigan. “We were down for two days when the government shut down but couldn’t come back because of the holidays. We pretty much got to be roommates for 13 days.”
“My favorite memory of Elmo is pretty much the same as Merrigan’s,” said Casey. “When we were in Kuwait we stayed in a trailer together for about three days at a time between missions and got to genuinely bond.”
Many retirements are often bittersweet for friends and coworkers of the retiree, however with handlers taking their dogs home after retirement, there’s more of a sweet taste than bitter, according to Merrigan.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hard at all, it’s probably more of a relief,” he said. “It’s nice to see them not have to work every day and be able to hang out on the couch or sleep instead.”
Although they’ve now been retired a couple of months before their official ceremony, the dogs are still getting used to their retired life.
“Elmo still tries to get in the car with me in the morning on the way to work,” said Casey. “But he’s a lot more comfortable now that he’s retired.”