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Military Working Dog Retired and Adopted

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Bryson Britt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

A Military Working Dog assigned to the 509th Security Forces Squadron was retired at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri February 4, 2022.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alex Villalpando, 509th SF military working dog handler, adopted U.S. Air Force MWD Stiffler, and have been enjoying the retired life ever since.

“Stiffler loves having his own freedom, relaxing and being in the moment like most of us do. He just wants to be in the same room as you, he’s a great listener and my son loves him. At the end of the day that’s all I can really ask for,” said Villalpando. “Most of the time he enjoys lying around on the couch and going on walks.”  

Villalpando has been a military working dog handler for a little over two years and says it’s the one of the most rewarding jobs he has ever had.

“Very few people get the opportunity to work with dogs in this capacity,” said Villalpando. “You build these unbreakable bonds with the dogs knowing that you’re willing to risk your life for them and that they would do the same for you.”

These bonds are built over time and with a keen eye for the dog's behavior. The initial training takes approximately a month of the pair working together, focusing on commands and how to work more cohesively as a team.

“You have to learn all of the dog’s quirks as he’s learning the job,” said Villalpando. “Learning the difference between him reacting to food or work, takes time to build. Not just over that first month, but through your time together as you continue to build rapport.”

Handlers groom and run through basic obedience commands with their MWDs to strengthen their relationship. That rapport and cohesion is put to good use once the duo is ready to go into the field.

During training, the dogs and handlers complete various tasks in the training yard to prepare them for real-world scenarios. If the MWD performs satisfactorily after each training exercise, the handler praises them for their progress.

Explosive detection dogs complete various tasks in the training yard to prepare them for real-world scenarios. Detonated explosive making materials are placed for them to identify and imprint on so they can help protect people and integrate with local agencies.

“The explosive detection dogs will come sweep the rooms or any locations distinguished visitors may visit to make sure everything is secure. Some of our dogs have also worked to aid secret service missions,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Strong, 509th SF military working dog handler. “They can assist with security checks at the gate and support local agencies off base as well.”

These dogs are integral to security and act as a valuable force multiplier when they are in the field.

According to Villalpando, the MWDs can smell, hear, or see movement much faster than people, which makes them amazing defenders.

Having been Stiffler’s handler, Villalpando was given the first opportunity to adopt Stiffler.

“Luckily the process of adopting Stiffler was pretty easy for myself since I was already his handler,” said Villalpando. “Adoptable dogs are normally offered to their current handler first before being offered to the previous handler or one of the other MWD handlers in the unit. If not adopted by the MWD team, the MWDs can be adopted by other military members or civilians. Ultimately we try to make sure that whatever family these dogs go to that they get the best quality of life that suits them.”

Even though their dog may retire the handlers job is always moving forward.

“We always have a dog and handler on call so if something ever does happen, even during non- duty hours we are always ready,” Strong said. “Being prepared at all times can be the perfect psychological deterrent to prevent the worst case scenario or deescalate a situation that has already began.”