Four years ago, U.S. Army Specialist Tyler Roberts and his partner, a 2-year-old bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois named Donna, were deployed to Afghanistan.
“She was excellent. You could unclip her from the leash and she could find something a mile away,” Roberts told FOX31. The team found hundreds of pounds of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Roberts and Donna formed a bond that Roberts didn’t want to end with their tour of duty.
But after her tour with Roberts ended in September 2011, Donna and 11 other dogs in the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog (TEDD) program were bought by a private company.
Roberts, who retired from the Army in 2013, did what he could to find his former partner.
“I tried to follow her career so that I could adopt her after she retired, but I could never get a straight answer as to her whereabouts,” he told USA TODAY.
In early 2014, the unidentified company that had bought the TEDDs left them at Mt. Hope Kennels in Chester, Va. The company told the kennel’s owner, Greg Meredith, the dogs would only be staying there a couple of months at the most.
Seventeen months later, Donna and the other TEDDs were still languishing in the kennel. Meredith paid about $150,000 out of his own pocket for their care. He couldn’t try to find homes for the dogs because they were considered government property.
Two months ago, the company contacted Meredith and told him it no longer wanted the TEDDs because they were now too old. The company told Meredith to dispose of the dogs as he saw fit.
“They’ve been abandoned. This is not the life that they deserve, nor is it how this country should take care of its soldiers,” Meredith told NBC12 last month.
He contacted two nonprofit organizations, Mission K9 Rescue and the United States War Dogs Association, which are partnered with the kennel and dedicated to finding homes for retired military dogs. If the organizations couldn’t track down the TEDDs’ former handlers, they would find them forever homes with other families.
“Our goal is to reunite all of the handlers and soldiers with their war dogs. We love to make that happen for them,” Kristen Maurer, president of Mission K9 Rescue, told USA TODAY.
Her organization met its goal with Roberts and Donna. Yesterday the two were happily reunited in a Thorton, Colo., park.
“I owe her my life and I intend to spoil her for the remainder of hers,” Roberts told USA TODAY.
He told FOX31 Donna has accepted a brand-new mission: chasing tennis balls.
Mission K9 Rescue has received hundreds of adoption applications for the other 11 TEDDs abandoned at the kennel. For information about adopting retired military dogs, visit the Mission K9 Rescue website.
Mission K9 Rescue has created the “Mt. Hope K9 Warrior Rescue” account on GoFundMe.com to raise money to reimburse Meredith for his generosity and help keep his kennel in business. To make a donation, click here.
Photo via Twitter