K-9 retires, finds retirement home
By Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 03, 2013
DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Not many Airmen can say they've dedicated their entire lives to the armed forces, even less can say they were born to do so. However, for one Dyess Airman, being trained since birth is just something that comes with the job.
For eight years, Condor, a 7th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, has been the example of the Air Force core values without complaint or hesitation.
Deploying twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Condor performed exceptionally well, saving the lives of U.S. and coalition forces by positively identifying multiple IEDs and more than 300 pounds of explosives. He also aided countless U.S. Secret Service operations. This war-veteran is finally trading in his hazardous duties for a comfy La-Z-Boy and afternoon walks.
Through the Department of Defense's MWD Adoption Program, 2nd Lt. Karrissa Garza, 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron, will be officially adopting Condor in the upcoming months.
As part of her 7th LRS training, Garza was touring the multiple shops and facilities within her squadron when she heard about the MWD adoption program.
"Basically, I had to go around to everyone in the entire squadron and find out what their job is and learn about the different aspects of our unit," the young lieutenant said. "One of our Airmen was explaining to me how the military working dogs are basically treated as supplies because we order them and they ship them to us. She then told me she was friends with the kennel master and about a dog that they were planning to retire."
A pet enthusiast her entire life, as well as doing a stint at her local PetsMart, Garza leapt at the opportunity to possibly adopt a MWD.
"I grew up all my life with dogs and I've worked my whole life with animals. I did my time at PetsMart and also worked in a museum with animals," Garza said. "So I talked to kennel master and started coming out to play with Condor."
Unlike a normal pet adoption where people go to the pound, find a dog they like, take it to the vet for a few shots and it's on its way to a new home, adopting a former military patrol and explosive detection dog is a bit more complicated.
"There isn't any formal training, but I go out there at least once a week and play with him for a while," she said. "I do that over and over again to build a rapport and bond with him. I try to learn his quirks and what sets him off."
Having seen Condor nearly every week since Christmas, Garza seems to have found the key to Condor's heart.
"He is completely obsessed with toys, it's kind of ridiculous," she laughed. "But Condor can be pretty stubborn sometimes. He will let you know when he's done, and when he is done there is no telling him what to do."
While Garza has spent nearly four months with Condor, taking him home is on hold until June due to her attending technical training.
"It gets harder and harder to not take him home," she said. "He will run up to the edge of the gate when I get there, look at me, then look at the car, then back to me like he knows. It drives me nuts to leave him there because we have built that connection and respect."
Even though it may be a while before Garza can bring Condor home, she is honored to provide him a life after the military and one that she believes every dog should have.
"He's done his job and helped the mission, and probably kept a lot of guys safe and alive," she said. "He's a living creature and deserves the same sort of rest as anyone else ... he's never gotten to be a real dog. From the minute he was born he was picked out to be what he is and trained in that mentality, he's never had a day off.
"We get days off. We get to go home on the weekend. We get a vacation, but Condor has never been on vacation," she added. "He has always been in a kennel or training or always on alert. He's seen just as much as everyone else has and to me it's important he gets a true retirement because if any animal or creature deserves it, it's one of these guys."