Contract Working Dog Reunites with Veteran Handler

When Bill left Afghanistan, he didn’t know if he’d ever see CWD Kelly again.

Bill + CWD Kelly

Bill and CWD Kelly served together in Afghanistan. Now Kelly is enjoying her retirement with Bill by her side.

"Leaving Afghanistan and seeing Kelly as I walked away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do; it broke my heart every single day. I would have gladly flown all the way back to Kandahar to bring her home with me."

It’s been almost a year since I officially adopted and brought home my K9 partner, Kelly! I was Kelly’s first handler when I worked for AMK9, and we were deployed to Kandahar Afghanistan in 2010 to 2011 for Operation Enduring Freedom. After a year’s deployment ended, I returned to the states and Contract Working Dog (CWD) Kelly stayed behind for a total of 8 years. I always wondered where she was and how she was. Year after year, it began to feel like we would never see each other again. I would pray every night for her and her handler’s safety, and contact AMK9 on a regular basis for any updates.

Adopted Working Dog CWD Kelly

Until one day this last year when I finally got the news I had long been waiting for: Kelly was finally retired and back in the states waiting to be adopted. I then contacted AMK9 who told me that Kelly was now waiting to be adopted at K9 Hero Haven. I immediately called K9 Hero Haven and talked to Anne Gibbs, who said CWD Kelly was sitting by her side waiting for me.

Adopted Working Dog CWD Kelly

After several emails back and forth I made my flight arrangements — thanks to Delta Airlines — and flew to Pennsylvania just as fast as I could to bring her home. Leaving Afghanistan and seeing Kelly as I walked away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do; it broke my heart every single day. I would have gladly flown all the way back to Kandahar to bring her home with me.

Adopted Working Dog CWD Kelly

When I left Afghanistan and returned home, I was unaware that I had brought so much anger and sadness with me. But since adopting CWD Kelly and having her home with me and my wife, it feels like I am whole again. She has brought me the happiness I was missing for years while we were apart. And I know I’ve told our story what feels like a hundred times, but I will tell it a hundred more. Kelly never leaves my side when I’m home, no matter what room in the house I’m in. I go outside — Kelly goes with me. I go to the bathroom — Kelly waits outside the door. I go to my truck — Kelly searches it to make sure there are no explosives. She is a working dog to her core, something she has been trained/certified for and will never not do. I thank God for K9 Hero Haven, Anne and Michael Gibbs and the amazing work they do for our K9 Heros/Service Dogs in finding them their forever homes.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Bill won K9 Hero Haven in Herndon, Pennsylvania a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.