German shepherds are often used by the military to help sniff out bombs and other lethal weapons. Dogs also help the disabled by retrieving items; they help guide the blind and work with the police and in airports. Kyle Smith and his 11-year-old dog, Bodza had worked together in the U.S. Airforce. The two had been together since 2012.
Bodza worked as an explosive detection dog where he saved the lives of people by locating bombs in places like Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, and Kuwait. He’d been a working dog since 2006. Bodza and Smith clicked immediately after they met and started working as a team. The two even spent over 180 days on a security mission in Kyrgyzstan.
“I loved working with him because he taught me a lot — patience as a young handler, and how to understand that this job isn’t just about you,” the man told The Dodo.
“He followed me around everywhere… and [told] me good night, every night.”
They spent the next few years working in harmony and bonding. But it wasn’t all work and no play for the team as Smith explains: Bodza was a goofy and gentle dog.
“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.
“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.”
When the day came for Bodza to retire, Smith didn’t think twice about adopting him. “I took him home the same day.
“He was even more loyal at home,” Smith said. “He followed me around everywhere. He would lay his head down flush on the bed and tell me good night, every night.”
In the summer of 2016, Bodza was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy. This is an incurable disease that affects an animal’s spinal cord: “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.”
In March of 2016, Smith came to a heartbreaking decision no dog lover wants to reach. He decided to end Bodza’s suffering. On that rough day, Smith was accompanied by eight of his coworkers to the Fort Bliss Vet Clinic in El Paso, Texas. The men put a blanket on the floor and made Bodza as comfortable as they could.
“I was holding Bodza as he passed,” Smith said. “It was a rush of so many things. It was just overwhelming.”
Despite the sadness Smith felt, Bodza seemed happy in his last moments: “He had a smile on his face when he was getting put to sleep,” Smith said.
After his beloved dog passed on, Smith finally allowed himself to break down: “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 incredible.
“There was heartache and peace all at once that came over me.”
Smith had Bodza cremated, and his ashes are kept in a safe place at home. Along with photos of his canine friend, Smith keeps Bodza’s collar on his rearview mirror.
“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.”