A heartbroken soldier has stayed by his retired German Shepherd war dog’s side as he passed away.
Kyle Smith and Bodza, an 11-year-old German Shepherd, have lived together for years. Smith and Bodza work for the U.S. Air Force and had spent so many cold nights in Kyrgyzstan while on a security mission.
Bodza started working for the U.S. Air Force an explosive detection dog in 2006. The German Shepherd had helped save the lives of thousands of humans by sniffing out IED’s in operations in Kuwait, Kyrgyztan, and Iraq.
In 2012, Bodza was matched with Smith and since then, the partners formed a deep and meaningful friendship. Talking to The Dodo, Smith said he learned a lot from Bodza – from being patient and understanding that the job he’s doing does not revolve around him.
When they weren’t working, Smith and Bodza shared a lot happy moments together.
“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.”
Smith also shared how the German Shepherd has a thing for shadows and how he barked at his own.
“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,” Smith said. “I guess he thought it was a rabbit.”
Smith could not help but fall in love with Bodza so when it was time for him to retire, Smith did not think twice about adopting him. He even adopted the GS on the same day of his retirement.
“He was even more loyal at home,” Smith said. “He followed me around everywhere. He would lay his head down flush with the bed and tell me good night, every night.”
Indeed, it was a match made in heaven. Since then the two partners are almost inseparable.
Sadly in the summer of 2016, Bodza was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease that affects a dog’s spinal cord. What’s more heartbreaking is, it has no cure.
“His hind limbs lost their use and he could barely stand up anymore, much less walk,” Smith said. “He couldn’t handle the stress on his body and using the restroom was a task.”
Seeing Bodza suffer, Smith had to make a decision, a decision no dog lover wants to make — to put his beloved dog to sleep.
Last month, Smith decided it was time. He and 9 of his co-workers took Bodza to the Fort Bliss Vet Clinic in El Paso, Texas, where they laid a blanket on the floor to help Bodza feel as comfortable as possible.
“I was holding Bodza as he passed,” Smith said. “It was a rush of so many things. It was just overwhelming.”
Of course, Smith cannot help but break down when it happened. The good thing is his coworkers were there to support him.
“They let me sob like a baby,” Smith said. “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 heartbreaking but despite the loneliness of the situation, Smith seemed happy for Bodza.
“He had a smile on his face when he was getting put to sleep,” Smith said.
Smith keeps Bodza’s ashes at home, along with his photos. Bodza’s collar also hangs on the rear view mirror of Smith’s car.
“I will never forget how loyal he was,” Smith said. “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.”