TORONTO – After nearly four years apart, a U.S. army veteran was reunited with the bomb-sniffing dog he served with in Afghanistan.
Army Specialist Tyler Roberts was reunited with the six-year-old Belgian Malinois, named Donna, at the Carpenter Recreational Center in Thornton, Colorado, Wednesday night.
The reunion was possible because of Roberts’ persistence in searching for his war buddy, a kennel’s generosity in keeping her once she returned home, and a charity’s willingness to bring the two of them together again.
“We separated in September 2011, and 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,” Roberts told KUSA News in Colorado.
The two of them served together for a year in southern Afghanistan as part of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, the famous “Screaming Eagles.”
For a year, Donna worked as a Tactical Explosive Detective Dog (TEDD), helping to sniff out Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and other ordinance. The work was always extremely dangerous for humans and dogs alike: when the 101st returned from this deployment in Afghanistan in June of 2011 they had lost 131 soldiers, the most killed in a single deployment since the Vietnam War.
After returning home, Roberts and Donna became separated, with Donna ending up at the Mount Hope Kennel in Virginia awaiting her next assignment.
She would end up waiting for 17 months, along with eleven other TEDD dogs.
According to Fox-31 News in Denver, the owner of Mount Hope Kennels spent nearly $150,000 of his own money to care for the dogs that had been left in his care over those 17 months.
Then a local charity, Mission K9 Rescue, stepped in to try and reunite each of the dogs with the soldiers they had served with overseas.
“We can’t understand what they go through over there ever. And when they come back you can just tell they’re a little bit broken,” Mission K9 Rescue spokesperson Kristen Maurer told Fox-31 News.
“And when they’re reunited with their dog I just see a piece of them get put back together.”
The charity worked with the kennel to track down Donna’s original handler, who said he had never stopped looking for her.
On Wednesday night, the search came to an end as Donna and Roberts came face-to-face after nearly four years apart.
“I owe her my life and I intend to spoil her for the remainder of hers,” said Roberts.
The charity has set up a GoFundMe page to repay the owner of Mount Hope Kennels for the cost he bore in caring for the dogs while they were in his care. Anyone interested in making a donation can do so here.