News>Hickam Airmen bid farewell to military working dog
Military Working Dog Bert, 647th Security Forces Squadron, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, died due to complications from a tumor found on his heart May 25, 2012, while attending pre-deployment training with handler, Staff Sgt. Paul Cruz, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Security forces Airmen and base leadership honored the seven years of active service MWD Bert gave in a memorial ceremony June 13. (U.S Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Paul Cruz)
Staff Sgt. Paul Cruz, 647th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Military Working Dog Bert, conduct patrol operations during pre-deployment training May 24, 2012, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. This photo, taken with a cellular phone camera, is the last photograph ever taken of Bert before he died due to complications from a tumor found on his heart. Security forces Airmen and base leadership honored the seven years of active service MWD Bert gave in a memorial ceremony June 13. (U.S Air Force courtesy photo/Staff Sgt. Paul Cruz)
Staff Sgt. Ricky Renfroe, 6547th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Jimmy, honor Military Working Dog Bert during a memorial ceremony June 13, 2012, at the Missing Man Memorial, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Bert died May 25 due to complications of a tumor found on his heart. (U.S. Navy photo/Dave Underwood)
Staff Sgt. Paul Cruz, 647th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, speaks during the memorial ceremony for Military Working Dog Bert, June 13, 2012, at the Missing Man Memorial, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Bert died May 25 due to complications of a tumor found on his heart. Cruz and Bert were in pre-deployment training at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., when the German shepherd collapsed. (U.S. Navy photo/Dave Underwood)
by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs
6/15/2012 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Following his last command, Military Working Dog Bert leapt through a building window to subdue a perpetrator while training for a fourth deployment, May 25, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.
In the moments after he emerged from the building with his partner, Staff Sgt. Paul Cruz, 647th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, the 9-year-old German shepherd collapsed.
"Initially we thought it was a leg issue or something," Cruz said. "When I noticed his tongue starting to turn blue, I knew it was a bigger problem."
The handler immediately started performing first aid while they rushed him to the veterinary hospital nearby for medical attention. After removing more than 600 milliliters of fluid and blood from around his heart, the doctor spelled out the worst case scenario -- a tumor on his heart.
"You really can't tell sometimes that a dog is in pain or there is something big wrong with them," Cruz said. "They can't tell you and they are working so hard to please you."
That night, Cruz spent the night lying on the veterinarian hospital's hard floor with MWD Bert. Cruz worried about the words of the veterinarian and what the future held for his K9 partner.
"I was trying to stay positive and get him back so he could live out the rest of his days on the couch in Hawaii," Cruz said. "Or at the very least find him a good home. I knew he wasn't going to work again."
In the morning, Cruz noticed MWD Bert seemed like he was back to normal, as he was eager to get out of the clinic and get back to work.
"He didn't look like anything was wrong the next day," Cruz said. "I was feeling a little better and was already thinking about planning for his retirement."
That early afternoon, MWD Bert collapsed again with no hope of resuscitation.
A Fallen Warrior remembered
"Those who call themselves dog handlers are truly the only ones who understand the bond between a military working dog and his handler," said Tech. Sgt. Roy Barden, 647th SFS Military Working Dog section NCOIC. "It is a bond that cannot be broken, even in death."
Military Working Dog Bert's "end of watch" was honored in a ceremony June 13 at Hickam's Missing Man Memorial where base leadership gathered to pay their respects to a fallen warrior.
"Bert's dedication to his work, even to the end, is continued proof of how stoic and driven these dogs are to ensure mission success," Cruz said. "I will always remember him as a fighter."
Military Working Dog Bert, whelped in April 2003, was certified as an explosive detector dog in April 2006 at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He was trained to detect a myriad of explosive ordnances.
During his seven-year career as an Air Force military working dog, Bert deployed with his handlers multiple times; Forward Operating Base McHenry, Iraq, January to July 2008; and two undisclosed locations in Southwest Asia in 2009 and 2010.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Michael Gimbrone, 647th SFS commander, pointed out the rarity of having every MWD handler to ever have worked with MWD Bert in attendance: Staff Sgt. Bradley Sears, Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Nichols, Tech. Sgt. Nathan Combs, Tech. Sgt. Roy Barden and Cruz.
"Like other defenders, MWD Bert gave many years of faithful service to the Department of Defense and our great nation," Gimbrone said. "Throughout the years, he faithfully stood by the side of (his) handlers, engaged in missions of national and strategic importance."
Like humans, a dog's personalities and quirks earn them reputations. Cruz spoke of the time he spent with MWD Bert and his easy going personality. He said the first time he saw Bert he thought, "This has to the laziest dog I've ever seen," because Bert was laying down eating. A seasoned veteran of the force, Bert will also be remembered for another quirk, "crazy eyes," as Cruz called it. The German shepherd's eyes didn't point in the normal direction, but Cruz said that didn't stop him from always looking out for his handler.
"Good job buddy," Cruz said in his closing remarks. "Please look out after
our military working dog teams deploying in harm's way."