The bond that forms between a working military dog and their handler is unlike any other. That’s why it can be so difficult for both the dog and their human partner when they have to part ways after working together.
While serving in South Korea, Senior Airman Jenna Canada worked with a German Shepherd named Akim. Together they patrolled their air base, performed vehicle searches, and worked with the Republic of Korea Air Force Special Forces. But their personal relationship went much deeper than the work they did together.
A Handler Sticks By Her Dog’s Side
On one frightening occasion while on duty, Akim swallowed a bee, which resulted in a severe allergic reaction. Akim was virtually unresponsive. Without a moment’s hesitation, Jenna scooped up the 70-pound dog and ran him to the vet.
“I don’t care about me. I care about my dog. I just wanted to make sure that he was as comfortable as he could possibly be. No one is going to care as much about him as me,” Jenna explained matter-of-factly.
While Akim recovered thanks to quick veterinary intervention, Jenna slept in his kennel with him, always by his side.
“No words could explain how I was feeling in that moment like… I wasn’t crying at first, I was just like, Oh my God, like, I need this dog to live.”
From then on, it became clear how important Akim was to Jenna.
A Life Of Love And Relaxation Awaits Akim
Their professional partnership ended in 2021, but the forever bond between Jenna and Akim remained. So, when Akim retired in 2022, American Humane stepped in to ensure he could retire in the arms of a loved one.
One initiative the organization works hard on is helping veteran dogs end their careers happily and comfortably: back with their former military handlers. Transporting former military dogs isn’t the easiest process, though. It took weeks to organize a trip home for Akim.
Regardless of the work involved, American Humane helped transport Akim from South Korea all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. A statement from American Humane describes the efforts that went into bringing retired Akim to Jenna:
“Our military team coordinated this reunification effort with SrA Jenna, the U.S. military, and our partners in pet transportation to bring MWD Akim from Osan Air Base, South Korea, to Albuquerque, New Mexico. To ensure Akim’s health and safety during the journey home, American Humane’s animal care expert, with oversight from our Chief Veterinary Officer, was involved at every step of the way.”
Akim’s Golden Years With Family
After nearly a year apart, Jenna and Akim finally reunited for good on July 12, 2022. Now it’s no more working for this guy, just love from the person he cares about most.
“I want him to see everything,” Jenna said. “I want him to experience the freedom of life. I want him to go in a river and go swimming and just live his best free life. He still deserves to see the world and get to have some fun.”
As a video that aired on KOAT shows, both Akim and Jenna are overjoyed to be back together again.
Retired military dogs often suffer from health issues related to their service. American Humane has also committed to covering “Akim’s lifetime of veterinary care.”
In a statement, Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, explained:
“We at American Humane honor the lifesaving contributions of all veterans, including the four-legged military dogs who risk their lives to courageously serve our country. We are thrilled Akim will get the retirement he deserves, alongside the person who loves him most.”
Happy retirement Akim, and happy adoption day to both the hero dog and his awesome handler Jenna!
Featured Image: Facebook