Falsely accused, judgment passed on him without proof, Sergeant Daniel Sandoval had been sentenced to K9 death–a career without a dog. But Sandoval is determined to come back to redeem his good name and set the record straight.
His guide to the road back? The Grey Wolf, Military Working Dog Bony.
“You failed certification on purpose, Sergeant. You don’t want to deploy, do you?”
Sergeant Daniel Sandoval’s skin began to tingle and his head to spin, but he couldn’t find the words to respond.
Avoid a deployment? Why would he do that? He had heard of handlers doing this, but that wasn’t in his nature. He knew that his fellow handlers were beginning to get fatigued with constant deployments. He had already deployed to Kosovo and Cuba, but Daniel was ready to head to combat. The problem was his Military Working Dog Marco.
The nine-year-old Belgian Malinois wouldn’t release his bite when he attacked. He also needed work on his fringe sitting. The damn dog would sit as soon as he entered the odor cone. He would be close but not directly on the scent. Daniel wanted to head back to Fort Campbell and fix Marco. Now he was being berated and dressed down when he should have been out working with Marco.
Daniel was finally able to muster, “S-s-sergeant. No. We, we just had a bad week. Marco has a frin…..”
“Bullshit, Sandoval. I know what I heard and I am tired of this crap from cowards like you. I’m getting my ass handed to me because we can’t get our teams certified. I‘m tired of guys like you.”
This was the first time Daniel had failed certification in the year he had been a dog handler. His family was already moved home to Pennsylvania in anticipation of this deployment. He was ready to go. He had no idea why he was being accused of purposely failing now.
“I am recommending to the Commander that you be removed from the kennels, Sandoval. I don’t need cancers like you round.”
Daniel had just received the kiss of death in the K9 world. It didn’t matter that he had taken a straight explosive detector dog and made him into a patrol explosive detector dog. It didn’t matter that he had never failed certification before. His side of the story didn’t matter to anyone. His name was now mud in the close-knit K9 world.
In 2011, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he finally had the chance he so desperately sought. But would the chain of command at Fort Bragg allow him the opportunity?
The Fort Bragg Kennel Master ran his eyes from Daniel’s head down to his feet—carefully surveying his new handler. Daniel trembled slightly and held his breath as he stood rigidly.
“Sergeant Sandoval. Yeah, I’ve heard about you.”
Crap, thought Daniel. This guy has already passed judgment on me.
“Sergeant, let me explain. I didn’t……..”
The Sergeant First Class kennel master raised his hand towards Daniel and said, “Shut up Sandoval. You just do your damn job. I’ll take care of the politics and chatter around here. Is that understood?”
Daniel blinked slowly several times, processed what had just been said, and finally released the air captured in his lungs. He was going to get his chance at redemption.
But would he really get a fair shake in this kennel? His kennel master was only one guy. What would the other handlers think of him? Nothing mattered right now though. His kennel master was offering him his only chance. He wasn’t about to blow it.
“Roger, Sergeant First Class. I won’t let you down,” Daniel said firmly.
“OK, good. I am assigning you to Military Working Dog Bony, the grey wolf. He is an experienced dog who likes to do things his way. You get like that when you are the grey beard of the kennel. Let’s go see him.”
Likes to do his own thing? Wolf? What the hell? Was the kennel master trying to sabotage him and give him a crappy dog? He kept his mouth shut.
“Bony just had Pexi surgery to prevent his stomach from turning and causing bloat,” the kennel master informed him.
They stopped and Daniel peered into the kennel curiously.
He surveyed the massive German Shepherd who stared back at him with mild curiosity. His once black ears, now mixed with grey, perked and stood straight up. The Shepherd’s once black muzzle was now intermixed with grey. It wasn’t just his face, though. Bony had grey all over him. His body was long and thick. How old is this dog, thought Daniel?
It was like his kennel master could read his mind. “Bony is nine. He’s been a MWD for seven years. He already has two deployments. He thinks he runs this place. Your first mission will be to show him he doesn’t.”
Bony stood up and calmly strolled to the kennel door and sniffed Daniel’s outstretched hand. He didn’t linger, choosing instead to return to his bed.
“Looks like you have some work to do, Sandoval,” his kennel master said as he marched back up the kennel toward his office.
Daniel watched the man go and then turned to the Wolf Dog who had his eyes shut and was now sleeping. Daniel knew his kennel master was right. It was time for Sergeant Daniel Sandoval to reclaim his good name.
Part II of this story is now published!
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