Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy. In fact – and this is speaking from experience – it’s one of the hardest things you will ever have to do.
Spare a thought then for the family of Bodza, an 11-year-old German Shepherd who lived a long and courageous life as a bomb detection dog with the U.S. Air Force.
Bodza spent his life working with soldiers in Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, and Kuwait, working without fail and risking his life everyday to help the men and women protecting our country.
He forged a special bond with one soldier in particular, Kyle Smith. Kyle and Bodza first met in 2012 during a security mission in Kyrgyzstan. Their relationship only deepened over time, so much so that Kyle opted to adopt Bodza when he retired.
“I loved working with him because he taught me a lot — patience as a young handler, and how to understand that this job isn’t just about you,” Smith told The Dodo.
“Bodza was a goofy and gentle dog. We had horse stables directly beside our obedience yard and when [the horses] were out, no obedience was going to be done. He’d run the fence line continuously.”
In 2016, however, this brave pupper was sadly diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a disease affecting his spine.
“His hind limbs lost their use and he could barely stand up anymore, much less walk,” Smith explaned. “He couldn’t handle the stress on his body and using the restroom was a task.”
Smith made the tough decision to end Bodza’s pain by putting him to sleep at a clinic in El Paso, Texas. Other soldiers and airmen who had served with the K9 were present to see him off.
“I was holding Bodza as he passed,” Smith said. “It was a rush of so many things. It was just overwhelming.
“He had a smile on his face when he was getting put to sleep.”
As was fitting, the airmen draped Bodza in an American flag after his death, giving him a true hero’s goodbye.
It’s small wonder that the heartbreaking image has since gone viral online.
The impact and importance of military dogs to our service men and women simply can’t be understated.
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