Gordon County Sheriff’s Deputy Benjamin Newport and his new wife Kaitlin canceled their honeymoon trip to Paris three weeks ago due to concerns over the coronavirus. They were disappointed not to be able to travel together, but the bad news came coupled with good.
The very same weekend they would have been in Paris, Newport received an email letting him know that his former military K9 partner was available for adoption.
Before joining the department in Gordon County, Newport served four deployments overseas as a Marine Corps Working Dog Handler with military police.
Buck, a German shepherd with a fondness for Kong dog toys, was his partner for three of those deployments, starting all the way back in April 2017. Together they searched for explosives in vehicles, buildings and items delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Their relationship was incredibly close not just because of the trust that job requires but also, Newport said, because Buck provided a kind of comfort to him overseas. He was like a family member.
“My daughter had just been born in December and I was still getting used to being away from her. He stepped in and helped fill that gap a little bit. Not completely, but it was good to have him there,” Newport said. “It helped me out a lot.”
Learning that he was going to be able to bring him home was incredibly exciting.
Newport said that while he and Kaitlin were still a little disappointed not to be going on their honeymoon, it suddenly felt like there was a reason they weren’t able to go, like maybe it was meant to happen that way.
“They emailed me about Buck asking if I was interested in adopting him and if I could come pick him up. They needed him to be picked up as soon as possible,” he said. “So, we went to Barnsley Gardens for two days and then we spent the rest of our honeymoon on a road trip to pick him up.”
Newport said he was nervous that Buck might not remember him anymore as he had gone on to work with another officer after Newport returned home from Jordan, but the nerves turned out to be unnecessary. Buck remembered him straight away.
“You always worry about whether they’ll remember you, but he knew. He was excited to see me,” he said. “It felt good to see that. I am excited to give him a ‘normal dog’ life, you know. He deserves to have that.”
Kaitlin and Gracelyn, the Newports’ 3-year-old daughter, bonded with Buck straight away.
Kaitlin spoils him and gives him human food straight from the table, and Gracelyn has “the same energy level” as he does, so they play well together too. Buck and Bella, the family’s 4-year-old German Shepherd, haven’t met yet. Newport said he is waiting to introduce them once Buck has adjusted to life at home.
“Kaitlin instantly spoiled him, so they get along great. She pampers him, you know, so he took to her instantly,” Newport said. “Him meeting Gracelyn was the first time I saw him around kids, so I was nervous, but he’s good with her. I think he is more curious than anything. He watches her run around like he’s wondering what she’s doing.”
Deserves a good life
Looking to the future, Newport said he hopes to continue training with Buck and, possibly, to get him working as a bomb dog with the sheriff’s office or as a search dog at venues that host large events, like Rome Braves games. Doing so would require that they get a special state certification, but he said he thinks it would be good for both of them. It is also a way that he can continue to serve his community outside of work.
“Even though he is retired, there are still things we can do as a team to help serve our local community. If we can take just that one extra step to prevent anything bad from happening, that’s what we want to do,” Newport said. “Right now, in lieu of that, I’m working with him with some local law enforcement guys not because I necessarily know he’ll work again but because it is beneficial for him. It’s something he is familiar with.”
The reunion between Newport and Buck is made possible through the work of nonprofit organizations like the U.S. War Dog Association and Mission K9 Rescue, as well as the military’s own working dog foster and adoption programs.
Each organization requires that individuals interested in adopting a former military working dog fill out paperwork, as well as answer questions about where the dog will live and how it will be cared for. Applicants are usually required to have a six-foot fence, no children under the age of 5 and no more than three dogs already in the home. They must list a veterinarian on their application, provide references and provide a transport crate, per information provided by the Air Force online. There is a 12-18 month waiting list to adopt a military working dog.
Though the process may seem evolved, Newport said he hopes others will consider becoming families for military dogs returning home.
“They help keep troops safe on the ground and they protect diplomats there on the ground. If it weren’t for dogs like Buck working in Iraq and Afghanistan, diplomats couldn’t get out to do what they need to do. The embassy would shut down because nothing, no vehicle or box or anything, goes into that embassy without dogs searching it first,” he said. “I consider these dogs veterans, just like I am, and they’ve done so much for our country. They deserve to be adopted when they come back. They don’t know the life of a regular dog, and they should. They deserve a good life and to be pampered by a family.”
Interested in adopting a retired military working dog? You can contact officials at email@example.com or call 210-671-6766.