MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D., March 28, 2018 —
As the door gradually opened, a series of howls echoed through the hallway. A military working dog eagerly barked as her partner approached, ready to start the day. As her wingman stopped in front of her, she immediately began spinning, jumping and whining.
“They’re always so excited to see us from the moment we walk toward their kennels,” said Air Force Senior Airman Angel Flores of his companion, a military working dog named Kety, a nine year-old German shepherd. “That’s how it is being military working dog handlers.”
Flores, one of nine dog handlers assigned to the 5th Security Forces Squadron here, begins his day by guiding his partner outside to perform their daily duties. These include patrol, detection and scout training.
‘She’s Like Family’
Flores and Kety have trained together since day one to strengthen their relationship and create a cohesive team. The two have been together for seven months, during which they’ve grown a bond strong enough to completely be in sync with each other.
“We have this saying of, ‘Things travel down the leash,’ which basically means that our mood affects our dog’s mood,” Flores said. “For example, if I’m in a bad mood then it’s going to put Kety in a bad mood, too, so I always try to stay positive when I’m around her.”
He added that despite initially being unfamiliar with each other, Kety attached herself to him like she was his own dog. Even to this day, their connection keeps growing.
“Kety isn’t just a dog, she’s like family,” Flores said. “I wish I could take her home every day, because when you build a bond like this, you start getting more attached as time passes. There are times when I find myself talking about Kety outside of work.”
Likewise, Air Force Staff Sgt. Heather Johnson, a military working dog trainer with the 5th Security Forces Squadron, has a deep relationship that’s lasted for years with another nine year-old German shepherd, Cyndy.
Johnson, also a handler, became Cyndy’s partner in 2013. They worked together for about two years. They reunited in March 2017, a moment Johnson said she remembers like it was yesterday.
“I was over the moon when they told me I was going back with Cyndy,” she said. “I couldn’t wipe that smile off of my face for days, and as soon as we got back together we just picked up right where we left off.”
Johnson added that they have a unique connection after being teammates for so long.
“If I’m not at work, she’s here waiting for me,” she said. “As soon as she hears my footsteps, she knows it’s me and not another handler coming in. That’s how in tune she is with me.”
Johnson also mentioned that her bond with Cyndy stems from the time they’ve spent together, both on and off duty.
“She’s my baby, my first K-9,” she said. “I even come in a lot during my time off just to sit with her and see how she’s doing.”
“We’re part of a team,” Johnson said. “With all the time we’ve spent together and the experiences we’ve shared, it feels monumental. We’re a part of something bigger than us and that’s what makes it so enriching and awesome for me.”