Local News

Marine K9s reunited with former handlers

Posted October 14, 2015 5:43 p.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2015 6:13 p.m. EDT

— After serving side-by-side during the war in Afghanistan, some former K-9 handlers were reunited Wednesday with their four-legged companions.

K2 Solutions in Southern Pines is a company that trains dogs and their handlers for dangerous missions.

“We manipulated their behavior,” said Bob Agnor, a trainer at K2 Solutions. “The dogs have a natural desire to retrieve and they have a natural desire to please their handlers, which is why these handlers love their dogs so much.”

During the war in Afghanistan, the company trained about 650 Labrador retrievers to become IED detection dogs for the Marine Corps.

As the war has now come to an end, the final 12 dogs from the program were reunited with their former handlers.

Chris Jaramillo last saw his dog, Shooter, on Nov. 10, 2014 at March Air Force Base.

The former Marine sergeant said his dog easily saved the lives of the 34 Marines in his platoon on a number of occasions, and a countless number of Marines who followed a path Shooter cleared.

“[I] set him out and it’s almost automatic,” Jaramillo said. “He went down and covered. We reported back up that it was a positive for an IED back, and we detonated it and took care of it without it harming anybody. It was the greatest.”

Shooter will head home to his new home in Austin, Texas. Jaramillo said the dog is a veteran who proudly served just as he did.

Mark Slocum and his dog, Tug, last shared each other’s company four years ago.

“The last time I did get to see him, me and him went to combat together and came back from deployment, and it was kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid,” Slocum said. “Just kind of had to hand him over and go back on the bus and go home.”

Stephen Keffler, another former K9 handler, said his dog is going to become his day-to-day companion at home—much different than their previous relationship on the battlefield.

“She’s going to become my companion, my cuddle buddy,” he said. “Days off work, she’s going to sit on the couch with me and watch TV.”