Maintainer Nation

  6 min read

Face of Defense: Marine Adopts, Reunites With Military Working Dog

Face of Defense: Marine Adopts, Reunites With Military Working Dog

The bonds built between Marines are said to help people grow personally and professionally as they mold who they are as individuals, and as part of something bigger than themselves. This is especially so for military working dog handlers and their K-9 partners, making it extraordinarily thrilling when a team is reunited forevermore.

A Marine poses for a photo next to a dog.

Marine Corps Sgt. Jenna L. CaubleJob Title: Military Working Dog TrainerHometown: Salisbury, North CarolinaStationed: Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North CarolinaUnit: Provost Marshal's Office

When did you join the Marine Corps and did you always want to be a MWD handler?

I joined the Marine Corps in 2013; I did not know military working dog handler, or K-9, was a career field option until I saw a military policeman with a dog and asked, "How do I do that?" He told me to come to the on-the-job training on my off days. I was selected for a school seat after months of OJT.

What's your MWD's official name/title?

Retired Military Working Dog Bbutler P283 (Tattoo Number).

A dog searches bags.

How many dogs have you worked with?

Bbutler was the first dog I ever handled in the Marine Corps. I was assigned three more military working dogs after him. I am not sure of the exact amount of handlers he had before or after me.

When did you first meet Bbutler?

I was assigned Bbutler in 2015 when he was 6 years old.

A Marine poses for a photo next to a dog.

What is the role of a military working dog?

The military working dogs are great partners and assets to protecting military bases as well as worldwide support in a conflict of war. These dogs serve to save lives, and they deserve to be remembered as well as enjoy their retirement. These dogs live for the work and do not know how to be just a dog, some dedicate their whole lives to the military and some are broken in the process. So when we as handlers are afforded the opportunity to adopt our prior MWDs it is a very incredible experience because we want nothing more but to honor them and the service that they dedicated their life too.

What was the relationship like when you became Bbutler's handler?

When we were newly assigned as a team I felt like we bonded immediately. We built a strong rapport that turned into a lifelong friendship.

A Marine hugs a dog.

How long did you serve together?

We served together from the end of 2015 to July 2017 in Okinawa, Japan.

What are some memorable times you had together?

We had numerous calls and finds together as a dog team. Our adventures exploring the island included finding waterfalls near the kennels as well as countless trips to the beach. We have met multiple famous individuals who mostly wanted to "pet my dog" and so many demonstrations for the local community. We pretty much were the demo dog team considering Bbutler was awesome at patrol work. My most memorable time working together was flying in a helicopter which was a first experience for both of us. We flew on the bird for about two hours to land on the [Marine Expeditionary Unit] which we had to search the [Bonhomme Richard] and stay on it until it ported.

A Marine poses for a photo with a dog.

How would you describe working with Bbutler?

Working with Bbutler was my highlight in Okinawa. Not having a car or family really helped us connect. Even on my off days, I would go to the kennels just to hang out with him. Having this dog that was my responsibility made me want to be a better Marine. I had more to lose than other Marines, and I wanted to not only treat him as a partner but as a friend.

When you heard Bbutler was being retired, what was your reaction?

When I left Okinawa, I left my adoption papers for when the time came for him to retire. Once I heard he was retiring in May of 2020, I was excited. His health is degrading and he is not the same energetic dog anymore but I would constantly receive pictures keeping me posted with his well-being.

A Marine signals toward a dog.

Was there any issues when you wanted to bring Bbutler home?

There were some issues getting him back to the states. With his health it was pretty much impossible for him to fly cargo. Bbutler needed an escort on that long journey to have his medication administered. He has an autoimmune disease and I got the dreadful phone call that he was going to need a blood transfusion. He pulled through, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the restrictions were at an all-time high. I got very discouraged that I might not ever see him again. A non-profit organization strictly for reuniting handlers with dogs was able to help. They got Bbutler back to the states and drove him personally across the country to my house here in Havelock, N.C.

What were you thinking as you waited to see him again?

The non-profit organization drove him to my house. I remember pacing around and actually pretty nervous. I did not know if he would remember me and it had been four years since I had seen him. Last time I saw him his health was perfect and to know he is sick broke my heart. It was a very overwhelming experience. I felt like I was trying to over prepare for a senior dog. I wanted him to be as comfortable as possible.

What was your reaction when you finally got to Bbutler?

When he got out of the van he ran right up to me. I felt like we instantly reconnected. Seeing him in the condition he was in from being old and sick is heartbreaking but I know I will give him the best remaining time he has left here with me.

A Marine poses for a photo with a dog.

What does retirement look like for Bbutler and you?

One of the main things I want to do with Bbutler is take him to Arlington, Virginia, to see the newly built women K-9 handler monument at the Arlington National Cemetery; it is to honor military women and service dogs. Retirement is pretty great for him so far, he is with me all the time. We have been out exploring different places, to include almost every pet store. He gets all the treats, lays on the couch, and lots of cuddling. He recently just celebrated his 12th birthday which was filled with a day of spoiling him.

How would you describe the bond between you and your MWD?

The bond between my RMWD and myself is hard to explain. He is my best friend and a part of my family. He was there for me in Okinawa and now I want to pay that back to [give him] the best life possible for him in his remaining years on this earth.

A Marine pets a dog.

Is there anything you would like to share about being a handler?

Having been a handler most of my career, there is something special about your first dog. You never realize how the bond between you and your K-9 would impact you. For me, I always thought about him and kept him close to my heart since I left Japan in 2017. I hoped I would see him again and be able to give him a good life. Even though he is sick, he still has a lot of life to live. He is the happiest I have ever seen him and those memories we have together when we were both younger I will cherish forever. Handlers being able to adopt these dogs, especially the ones overseas, is the best thing for this small K-9 community.

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