Man’s best friend retires after nine years of service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Collette Brooks
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

Military working dog Bruno, 49th Security Forces Squadron explosive detector dog, retired April 24, 2020, at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

After serving almost nine years in the U.S. Air Force and six of those nine years at Holloman, MWD Bruno ends his military career surrounded by friends, colleagues and tennis balls.

MWD Bruno protected and served here for the last year and a half with his handler, Staff Sgt. Chase Feeney, 49th SFS MWD handler. MWD Bruno deployed twice to Al-Udied, Qatar, and once to Al-Jaber, Kuwait with Feeney.

“On his most recent deployment, MWD Bruno discovered an improvised explosive device that was placed in the direct route of travel of U.S. Forces,” said Feeney. “He’s also provided security for many high-level government officials to include Secretary of Defense Mattis and President Trump’s inauguration.”

Additionally, MWD Bruno and his fellow MWDs supported Security Forces Defenders when faced with threats on and off the installation both locally and in a deployed environment.

“The objective of having MWDs work alongside us in the field is to employ MWD assets aggressively and effectively to counter threats,” said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Franco, 49th SFS kennel master. “This instruction provides the framework for employment and utilization to support Integrated Defense as outlined in AFI 31-101, Integrated Defense. This will ensure our forces can anticipate, deter, detect, assess, warn, defeat, delay, defend and recover.”

To ensure MWD Bruno always maintained readiness, MWD Bruno and Feeney trained daily to keep MWD Bruno’s detection skills sharp and intact, especially his most valuable weapon - - his nose.

“MWDs have a keen ability to detect substances that are not perceivable to the human nose,” said Franco. “MWDs are a trusted informant in the presence of contraband and intruders. They are considered a force multiplier to the mission here at Holloman.”

With Feeney and MWD Bruno’s partnership being so strong and transparent, it was Feeney who recognized his hard-working canine partner was experiencing some health concerns.

“When MWD Bruno started showing signs that his old age was keeping him from being able to do the things necessary to complete the mission, we immediately brought it to the veterinarian’s attention,” said Feeney. “It’s every handler’s responsibility to be aware of their dog’s health and welfare.”

Once MWD Bruno was medically evaluated, his doctor decided retirement would be in his best interest.

The next step for MWD Bruno was adoption, however adoption for a MWD is not the same process as adopting a puppy from a local kennel.

“Once the vet determined he was no longer able to perform his required duties, we immediately started conditioning him to be adoptable,” said Feeney. “I would let him out of his kennel first thing in the morning, and he would just hang out in the office with us all day. I’m very happy that he is retiring.”

While having to say goodbye to a teammate can bring a mix of bittersweet emotions for the handlers, Feeney found solace in knowing that the team’s working chapter might be done, but their next book starts together with MWD Bruno relaxing in the comfort of their home.

“I adopted Bruno, and he is living at home with me now,” said Feeney. “He went straight to the couch as soon as his retirement ceremony was over. I honestly couldn’t not adopt him. We’ve done a lot together in this short amount of time. We were a team, and while I’m sure someone else would have taken great care of him, nobody knows him better than I do. It was my responsibility to take care of him as a working dog, and now I get to care for him as my pet.”