When Marine Sam Wettstein returned home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan, he felt that something was missing in his life. He had spent 19 months working with Belle T634, a contract bomb-sniffing dog used to detect improvised explosive devices or IEDs. And when he got back to his life in the United States, he knew that the thing he was missing was his Labrador Retriever partner.
Handlers are warned not to get too emotionally attached to their dogs, as it can compromise the training. But as many of us know, it’s very hard not to fall in love with a good dog. Belle was one of the best, earning the “Top Dog Award” in training class. She provided Wettstein with a way to keep his mind occupied, but she was more than that. As the desert nights plummeted to freezing temperatures, Belle slept in her partners sleeping bag with him and even pulled the covers over him when he fell asleep before zipping them up.
Wettstein couldn’t deny their bond. He applied to adopt Belle while they were still deployed, knowing that the odds of tracking down a contract military dog were close to zero. When he got home to the United States, he made several calls per week to find Belle. Finally, he found out Belle was suffering from PTSD and wouldn’t work with other handlers. She was retiring, and she would be allowed to live with Wettstein. She flew back to the U.S. thanks to Mission K9 Rescue. She’s made a lot of progress with her PTSD in the years since she was adopted, and she couldn’t be happier to have her forever home with the partner that she bonded with.
Do you think it should be easier for soldiers to adopt their former dog partners once they get home? Are you happy to see these two reunited? Let us know in the comments below!