One German Shepherd has dedicated his life to serving in the U.S. Air Force and has saved countless lives as an explosive detection dog since his career began in 2006.
For most of his life, Bodza sniffed out bombs in Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, and Kuwait. So when his life was finally coming to an end, his handler Kyle Smith made sure he never left Bodza’s side no matter how much it broke his heart to see his brave and loyal partner dying.
Smith and Bodza were first paired together in 2012 and spent countless freezing nights together on duty. “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 said. But their time together wasn’t all hard work. “Bodza was a goofy and gentle dog,” Smith said. “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. He liked to bark at his own shadow, so I’d always mess with him that way — make my hand a shadow on the ground and move it. I guess he thought it was a rabbit.”
And when Bozda retired, Smith didn’t hesitate to adopt him officially.”I took him home the same day,” Smith said. “He was even more loyal at home. He followed me around everywhere. He would lay his head down flush with the bed and tell me good night, every night.” But this past year, Bodza was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, an incurable disease that affects the spinal cord and left Bodza unable to walk or even stand. “He couldn’t handle the stress on his body and using the restroom was a task.”
Smith couldn’t stand seeing Bodza suffering and made the impossible decision to put him down. Last week, the day finally came and Smith brought his beloved partner to the Fort Bliss Vet Clinic and did everything possible to make sure he was comfortable. “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.”
Smith stayed strong for Bodza, but when he finally passed, he immediately broke down. “They let me sob like a baby,” Smith said about the fellow soldiers that went to support him. “They pat me on the back and let me know it was going to be all right. My boss immediately went and grabbed a flag, and draped it over him and let me have a final moment.”
“It was incredible,” Smith said. “There was heartache and peace all at once that came over me. I will never forget how loyal he was. He was selfless. more than any human I’ve ever known. He’s done so much for next to nothing and did it with a smile. I miss him every day.”
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[Featured image: Kyle Smith]