Cici, a chocolate Labrador Retriever and U.S. Military Working Dog (MWD) better known as Cila M389, and U.S. Army Sergeant Jason Bos first met at Lackland Air Force Base, then completed bomb detection training together in Arizona.
The pair then headed overseas to Iraq for multiple deployments, where Cici and Bos spent their days working to protect other troops and civilians from dangerous explosive devices. Cici was specially trained to walk off leash ahead of Bos and the other soldiers and search for dangers up ahead, guided by Bos’s hand signals and verbal cues. Together, the handler and his MWD completed more than 100 missions between 2008 and 2009.
During off hours in Iraq, Bos spent his time by Cici’s side. They often played together and helped one another get through tough times. The two shared a special bond from the start, Bos says.
“They tell you not to get too attached, that they’re not a pet, they’re a tool to help keep people safe,” Sgt. Bos explains. “But it’s hard.”
After coming back from overseas, Bos and Cici also teamed up to protect President Obama during presidential visits stateside.
But then, in December 2012, Sgt. Bos suffered a serious back injury that forced him to retire from active duty. Bos headed back home to Grand Rapids, Michigan, but Cici’s military career wasn’t over yet. Cila M389 stayed behind. Sgt. Bos remembers saying an emotional goodbye to Cici in Virginia.
“It was definitely tough,” he says. “But I was hopeful that maybe one day we’d meet again.”
Back in Michigan, Bos never forgot his four-legged friend, thinking of Cici every day, wondering how the 7-year-old chocolate Lab was doing, if she was happy and safe. He made an effort to stay in touch with Cici’s new handler via Facebook, checking in on Cici often.
Then, last month, Sgt. Bos got the news he’d been waiting for since parting with Cici all those months ago — Cici was ready to retire. Sgt. Bos jumped at the chance to adopt the dog he’d served with, the dog he considers his best friend.
But the Army veteran needed help to bring Cici back home to Grand Rapids. He reached out to the American Humane Association and Mission K9 Rescue, hoping the organizations could provide him with the resources and guidance he needed to transport Cici back to the U.S. from her kennel in Germany.
“I’m just really grateful for all the people that have stepped up and shown their support,” Bos says.
Finally, on April 30, after a year and a half apart, Bos could hardly contain his excitement knowing he’d soon reunite with his best friend. Sgt. Bos waited with anticipation at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where Cici would touch down after a nine-hour flight from Germany back to the states.
Before meeting Cila at the airport, Bos admitted to the Chicago Tribune that he felt almost nervous to see her again.
“I hope she remembers my voice,” Bos said.
But as soon as Cici laid eyes on her favorite human, it was clear she’d never forgotten him. The loyal Lab jumped into Bos’s waiting arms and then rolled on her back for a belly rub.
“She looked at me, she started smelling me, she knew me,” Bos explains.
Cici usually has impeccable manners, Sgt. Bos tells MLive.com, so he says he knows by her reaction how much she must have missed him.
“It was complete joy,” he says. “I was kind of blown away.”
Bos feels lucky to have the chance to be with Cici again.
“It is unbelievable,” Sgt. Bos tells WGN News. “I don’t know anyone, personally, you know, another handler who’s gotten their dog back.”
“I didn’t think I was ever going to see her again,” says Sgt. Bos, “so I’m very enthusiastic, I’m super excited…I’m just blown away because I didn’t think it would be possible.”
It looks like Cici will get to have the peaceful retirement she deserves. Sgt. Bos promises she will get to sleep on his couch every night.
“Her whole life has been about working. Now it’s time for her to worry about just relaxing,” Bos says.