When retired Tech Sergeant David Simpson was told he’d need to leave his position with the Air Force due to medical problems and head back home to Mulberry, Fla., all he could think about was Robbie, the 85-pound German Shepherd he served with for four years.
Robbie was still on active duty, and would have to remain at the Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany for the foreseeable future, which meant Simpson would have to say goodbye to his four-legged partner before heading back to the states.
“[It’s] probably the most difficult task we have to do, other than having your dog pass away,” Simpson tells FOX 13 Tampa Bay. “It was very tough to go through, and you don’t know if the dog understands. Having to say goodbye, that is heartbreaking.”
As the months went by, Simpson’s thoughts often turned to Robbie. He wondered how his dog was doing, whether he was happy and safe.
Then, almost a year after the pair parted ways, Simpson received a message on Facebook, a message he’d been waiting for since the moment he left from overseas: Robbie was retiring, or “hangin’ it up,” Simpson says.
Right after Simpson got word of Robbie’s non-active status, Simpson booked the next possible flight to Germany, ready to bring Robbie home. The former Tech Sergeant rushed to the Air Force base, excited to see his dog once again.
Though it cost $2,000 to transport Robbie from Germany back to the U.S., the expense could not have been more worth it to Simpson, who could hardly bear the thought of leaving Robbie behind. Now back in Mulberry, Simpson is enjoying spending time with Robbie and his family, watching the former military dog cozy up to Simpson’s three young children.
“He enjoyed working, but he enjoys his time off a lot better,” Simpson says of Robbie, who, despite his age and a few health issues — “Mostly just arthritis,” Simpson explains, “he’s got some eye issues, too” — still has plenty of energy for playtime.
“My goal for him is to allow him to have as much fun and relaxation as he wants for the rest of his life,” says Simpson. “I just want him to enjoy his retirement.”
Because of everything they’ve experienced together and all the things they’ve seen while on security detail, Simpson and Robbie’s bond runs deep.
“I’m definitely closer to him than any other animal I’ve ever owned,” the retired Tech Sergeant explains.
Simpson says he can hardly put what Robbie means to him into words.
“We’re best friends. You know, the military puts a lot of these guys as equipment, but to any handler that you ask they’re going to tell you that this is my best friend,” says Simpson.