Mission K9’s Intercontinental Rescue Reunites Hero Dogs With Hero Handlers

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In an intercontinental rescue operation, Mission K9 Rescue — a nonprofit that finds loving homes for retired military, police, and contract working dogs — has reunited four retired military working dogs with the handlers who cared for them during their years in service. Now the dogs can have the happy retirement they deserve.

Working dogs are an integral part of the efforts that American law enforcement, military, and supporting contractors undertake at home and abroad. Sadly, however, many of these dogs end up left at kennels to suffer alone after their usefulness as high-performing working dogs has run its course. Mission K9 finds forever homes for the dogs, often with the professional handlers they had worked with, so that they may live out their retirement in peace.

In their most recent rescue mission, the organization flew three retired military working dogs to Germany, bringing one back to the United States, despite complicated travel protocols due to the pandemic. The dogs have now been reunited with their former handlers, who eagerly awaited their arrival. (Pictured: Spyk and Justin).

Mission K9’s president Kristen Maurer and vice president Louisa Kastner accompanied the dogs on their cross-Atlantic journey, reuniting them with their former handlers in person.

“This journey posed some challenges. A cross-Atlantic flight is always a big undertaking for transporting dogs, but protocols due to COVID-19 made this trip even more challenging. Nothing would stop us from giving these military dogs the retirement they deserve, though, and now they are all happily reunited with their former handlers.”

Retired Military Working Dogs: Home at Last

Military Working Dog Spyk and Handler Justin Reunited in Germany

Justin and Spyk worked together for 4 years in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Spyk has retired after 9 years of service, two deployments, and many “temporary duty travel” (TDY) assignments. Spyk and Justin developed a strong bond during their time together and are now enjoying Spyk’s retirement as a family in Germany.

Military Working Dog Syrius and Handler Debbie Reunited in Germany

Handler Debbie shares that after finishing up a Kennel Master/Trainer course, she picked up and helped transport Syrius to Tinker Air Force Base in 2015. “After arriving back to Tinker, I was given his leash. So that’s when our adventure began.”

“We ended up taking a few POTUS missions,” Debbie shares. “Those were always filled with laughter. Syrius has — and always will have — a special place in my heart.”

Military Working Dog Rango and Handler Adrian Reunited in Germany

“Rango and I were partners for 2 years and he was my first Military Working Dog,” says Adrian, who is now giving Rango the peaceful retirement he deserves. “As a Narcotic dog team we busted many cases of illegal drugs coming onto Luke Air Force Base.”

Despite being a fierce, hard worker, Adrian says Rango always acted like a puppy. After serving the Air Force for eight years, Rango was retired due to spine health issues. “Rango will be joining me in Germany and will continue to live with me for the rest of his life wherever I go, giving him the best retirement life he deserves. I still continue to serve as a K9 handler and have had 6 other dogs I’ve worked [with], but none of them gave me memories like Rango.”

Military Working Dog Vulkan and Handler Jonathan Reunited in the United States

After reuniting Spyk, Syrius, and Rango with their loving handlers in Germany, Kristen and Louisa flew back to the United States with Vulkan, so that he could go home to his former handler, Jonathan. In his career as a Military Working Dog, Vulkan had been deployed to Turkey and supported multiple United States Secret Service and Department of State missions in Europe, where he spent six years. But there will be no more hard work for Vulkan, who will be spending the rest of his life enjoying his retirement with Jonathan.

Since 2013, Mission K9 has brought over 1,000 working dogs home from abroad. Over 520 of those K9s have been reunited with their former veteran handlers. The organization has helped hundreds more with veterinary care, and have completed dozens of transports in the United States.

About Kristen: Kristen Maurer is the president of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

About Louisa: Louisa Kastner is the vice president of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

About Bob: Bob Bryant is the chief technology officer of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

Above and Beyond: The lives of a veteran’s family are changed after receiving assistance from DAV

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The Nutt family smiling outside their home with US flag in background

By: Matt Saintsing

When Sarah Nutt contacted DAV (Disabled American Veterans) last May, she hoped her husband, Gary, an Air Force veteran, would be eligible for some much-needed additional compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. DAV is a nonprofit organization that helps more than one million veterans each year get the life-changing benefits they deserve.

Finances had become so bleak in the years after Gary stopped working due to illness that Sarah would trim expenses by routinely cutting his hair. There was rarely cash for extra food or gas. And medical and dental insurance was a luxury they couldn’t afford. “There was no money for anything other than the bare necessities,” said Sarah. “That’s why we were reaching out so desperately.”

What she didn’t bank on, however, was DAV helping the family obtain much more than the modest $150 per month she was hoping for, substantially increasing Gary’s VA rating and even connecting their daughter, Sadie, with educational benefits for eligible dependents.

Years before, Gary got to see the world serving as an aircraft electrical and environmental systems mechanic, traveling to Germany, Spain and the Philippines. But it was his service in the Persian Gulf War that sparked a medical mystery.

After spending just over six months at King Abdulaziz Air Base in Saudi Arabia, Gary began to experience excruciating headaches while stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. “I bent over to open up my locker on base, and after standing up, I had a splitting headache,” said Gary, a DAV life member of Chapter 7 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, “the worst I’ve ever had in my life.” Doctors said he had a sinus infection, but the medication they offered provided no relief.

“They gave me some pills that didn’t work, so I went back and they gave me some more pills that didn’t work,” added Gary. “Nothing really seemed to help.” Moments of intense anguish persisted after Gary left the Air Force, which led doctors to temporarily remove part of his skull, hoping to end the agony. Shortly after that, he began having seizures. As the years passed, Gary’s symptoms became worse.

The headaches continued, but other worries appeared: slowed speech and a steep and gradual decline in Gary’s reaction time. As more tasks took him longer to complete, the air conditioning repair company Gary worked for considered him a hazard to the workplace. “They had laid me off because I got to the point where I was really slow,” said Gary. “I got there at 5 every day, I worked as hard as I could, but they said I was more of a liability than an asset.”

“Everything slowed down,” added Sarah, “to the point where I had to help him do anything.” A stay-at-home mom, Sarah began caring for him full time, and Gary’s VA compensation at the time was not enough to cover their expenses. With Gary out of work since 2016, they slipped further into financial distress. However, their tide turned after Sarah called DAV National Service Officer Lindsay Kinslow, who was confident she could significantly increase Gary’s overall VA rating.

“They were really adamant about the $150 that comes with aid and attendance benefits,” said Kinslow, who works at the DAV national service office in Washington, D.C. “And I said, ‘Well, maybe we can get you a little bit more than that.’” Kinslow submitted the claim last June, which opened the floodgates of VA appointments for Gary—six in two months—to reassess his health. By staying in constant communication with Sarah, Kinslow learned the scope of the Nutts’ financial anxieties extended to their home, which they were close to losing.

So when Sarah got the call last October and learned about everything Kinslow had secured for Gary, she broke out in tears. “It was just such a huge blessing and a relief,” said Sarah. “When [Sarah] told me Gary had to quit working due to this condition, I knew for sure that would lead to an increase,” added Kinslow.

In all, Gary became a permanent and total service-connected disabled veteran, with the special compensation Sarah originally asked about.

With the increased funds, they were able to get a new vehicle, and for the first time in four years, Gary received a professional haircut. But the most unexpected benefit the Nutts received was the VA educational benefits available to survivors and dependents of eligible veterans. With that added benefit, their daughter Sadie will be able to recoup some of the money she spent while enrolled in cosmetology school. “We are just so thankful to Lindsay and DAV,” added Sarah.

“I know money isn’t the most important thing, but it can be very hard to live.”

To get help or learn more about how DAV helps veterans, visit DAV.org.

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