If military working dog Hexa looks excited, it's usually because she's spotted a tennis ball. She's nearly 11, suffering from a neurological disorder which is slowly causing her to go blind, and also has canine post-traumatic stress disorder. She'll be enjoying the retired life with a new, loving family in South Carolina.

Military working dog bids farewell to working life

A couple weeks I posted t……. Military Working Dogs Have Their Day in DC! The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act passed the Senate by a unanimous vote this on December 5, 2012. The act had already passed the House on May 18, 2012 with a vote of 299 to 120. There is one more step to climb before this act becomes law. The President must sign the act into law.  

So here is a timely example, Military Working Dog Hexa, who served her country and in return asked for two things (I know the author of this story says one (tennis balls) but he missed one essential…… love!). This country is forever indebted to Hexa for the lives she saved in Iraq with her nose and instincts.

This act will provide veterinarian services to her adopted dad, Staff Sgt. Neal Moody. Now Staff Sgt Moody can adopt Hexa, love and care for her without the financial burden Hexa brings because of her medical condition.

Military working dog Hexa, now retired, shows her stuff during a K-9 capabilities demonstration for deploying Marines in 2009. Hexa is a veteran of two deployments to Iraq, but at almost 11 years old, nearly blind and suffering from canine post-traumatic stress disorder, she’s going to a loving family for a relaxing retirement.

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

Story by Cpl. Aaron Diamant

YUMA, Ariz. – She’s spent her entire lifetime locating explosives and apprehending suspects, all in the name of one thing. Tennis balls. That is, if she could tell you what her one thing was. But, to the military, military working dog Hexa has been an invaluable tool, trained to risk her life to safeguard all others from the risks posed by improvised explosive devices.

To all who know and understand military working dogs, they are nothing short of heroes. In her younger years, Hexa deployed to Iraq twice, locating explosive devices and undoubtedly saving countless lives. She was even involved in the Battle of Fallujah, serving valiantly in some of the worst urban combat undertaken in decades.

Lance Cpl. Kristopher Marcum, station military working dog handler, plays with MWD Hexa prior to her final departure from the air station. Even though she's losing her sight due to a neurological disorder, tennis balls get her going like the pup she once was. At almost 11 years old, she's finally retiring to spend her days chomping on tennis balls and sleeping on couches.

Lance Cpl. Kristopher Marcum, station military working dog handler, plays with MWD Hexa prior to her final departure from the air station. Even though she’s losing her sight due to a neurological disorder, tennis balls get her going like the pup she once was. At almost 11 years old, she’s finally retiring to spend her days chomping on tennis balls and sleeping on couches.

Now, her once expressive eyes are now clouded over, a result of her age and a condition which is causing her to slowly drift into blindness. The Shiloh Shepherd’s long, flowing coat shows streaks and patches of gray, evidence of her lifetime of service to her country, but to Hexa, it was all about making her handlers proud and getting to chew on her tennis ball, or any ball in sight for that matter.

In her old age, she wasn’t put to work like she had been in her youth. The station’s handlers were waiting on her adoption package to be approved, which moved Hexa into a caregiver position. She was still brought out of her kennel, played with and loved on, but her working days were done.

It wasn’t rare for her to prance into the office like the princess she is, and immediately start searching the area. This time, it wasn’t for explosives, but rather for toys. Even though her sight is slowly diminishing, her sense of smell is still keen.

Lance Cpl. Kristopher Marcum, station military working dog handler, plays with MWD Hexa prior to her final departure from the air station. Even though she's losing her sight due to a neurological disorder, tennis balls get her going like the pup she once was. At almost 11 years old, she's finally retiring to spend her days chomping on tennis balls and sleeping on couches.

Lance Cpl. Kristopher Marcum, station military working dog handler, plays with MWD Hexa prior to her final departure from the air station. Even though she’s losing her sight due to a neurological disorder, tennis balls get her going like the pup she once was. At almost 11 years old, she’s finally retiring to spend her days chomping on tennis balls and sleeping on couches.

Military working dogs live a somewhat complicated life. Destined from birth to locate explosives or narcotics, as well as apprehend suspects, from the age of mere months, their training begins. For the dogs, it’s a simple thought process: I smell this, I let my handler know, I get my toy and told I’m a good dog.

For the handlers, it’s learning the individual animal. They signs they give, the directions they require, the encouragement they need, the love and admiration they deserve.

The hardest part for any handler is saying goodbye, whether the handler is leaving for another duty station or ending their time in the Corps, or the dog reaches their time to retire.

Hexa’s turn has come at long last. She’s nearly 11 years old, old for any large breed dog, but especially as an active military working dog. She’s being adopted by Staff Sgt. Neal Moody, a former Marine Corps Air Station Yuma military policemen now stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The adoption process involves prioritizing the applications that the Marine Corps receives. MWD handlers have first priority, active-duty military have second priority, and the general population has third priority, according to Marine Corps Systems Command. The Corps does not, and will not, euthanize dogs except for severe medical situations, unlike some nasty rumors on the internet would lead people to believe. 

Luckily for Hexa and her new owner, her conditions weren’t severe enough to warrant euthanasia, and she’ll live out the rest of her life in luxury, even more so than when she was the kennel princess.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, we celebrate the men and women who have courageously served our nation, but let us not forget the brave “Dogs of war” who have served valiantly by their side since the dawn of combat. As Marines, we say there’s “no better friend, no worse enemy.” We’re devil dogs, and so are our actual dogs. 

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7 thoughts on “Military working dog bids farewell to working life

  1. Kelly Root

    We can take a retired working dog. We can give the dog a great remainder of life. Private home way off the road nearly 1/2 mile off the road. Lots of area to run and play, lots of attention, nearly every hour of the day. Have a pen when needed. Great Vet to care for the animals, with MSU Vet Clinic one hour away for major problems or a wonderful VET just 10 minutes away. Any dog who comes here will be very well cared for here in Michigan at our home.

    Reply
      1. Lynda Lawson

        My Shepherd lasted until 16 but she had an easy life. I’d love to pamper a retiree and get her the best medical help money can buy.But are they left there when they retire? Am I right in my understanding that they aren’t flown home to the US after service? Lynda

        Reply
        1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

          Dogs that are stationed overseas aren’t flown back to the states. It is at the cost of the person adopting the dog. But this is changing with new laws being passed. :-)

          Reply
  2. Gloria Richard

    I missed this post, but caught your tweet about it. I checked that handy-dandy box so I won’t miss your next one.

    I doubt I can tell you too often how much I appreciate your service and sacrifices. As for Hexa…

    There is so much wisdom and love in Hexa’s eyes. I’m glad the USMC tries to ensure she spends her retirement years with a member of the armed forces. It’s a blessing for both, isn’t it?

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Gloria. It sure is. Handlers normally get first dibs on their dogs. Especially attack trained dogs as the handlers are best suited to handle them. I’m sure Hexa is spoiled rotten! :-)

      Reply
  3. Jani Muhlestein

    I disagree with just one thing: it isn’t just about “I smell this. I tell my handler about it. I get my toy and I’m a good dog.” that doesn’t allow for the love and loyalty that the dogs feel towards their handler-parents, and the other members of their teams. Toys and praise are wonderful. But these dogs work long, hard, hot (or cold) hours. They don’t do that just for toys and praise. They do that for the incredibly strong bond they feel for their handlers. They do it for love. People sometimes forget that animals feel deep and abiding emotions too.

    Reply

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