Heroes come in many forms. In the case of Bodza, it was in the form of an 11-year-old German shepherd. Bodza and his handler, Kyle Smith had served in the U.S. Air Force together, part of that time in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. There they spent 189 cold days working a security mission, just one of the instances of time in which they bonded.
Bodza’s time in the U.S. Air Force
Bodza started served in the U.S. Air Force starting in 2006. And even though Smith didn’t enter service until 2012, the two bonded during their time together. So, when it was time for Bodza to retire, Smith welcomed him into his home with open arms, adopting him.
“He was even more loyal at home,” Smith said in a Dodo interview. “He followed me around everywhere. He would lay his head down flush with the bed and tell me good night, every night.”
A devastating diagnosis
In the summer of 2016, Bodza was diagnosed with a progressive and incurable disease called degenerative myelopathy. The disease affects the spinal cord, making it difficult, if not impossible to stand and walk. It was only a matter of time before the disease proved fatal for Bodza.
“His hind limbs lost their use and he could barely stand up anymore, much less walk,” Smith said. “He couldn’t handle the stress on his body and using the restroom was a task.”
A decision is made
It was with a heavy heart that Smith made the hard decision to have Bodza put his beloved dog down. Taking Bodza to the Fort Bliss Clinic in El Paso, Texas, Smith, along with nine of his coworkers, said goodbye to the loyal companion. Laying the dog down on the floor on a blanket, Smith said his last farewells to his much loved dog.
“I was holding Bodza as he passed,” Smith said. “It was a rush of so many things. It was just overwhelming.”
Showing due respect
His coworkers showed their support for the grieving soldier, with his boss even grabbing an American flag to drape over the fallen K9s body as a show of respect for his time spent serving his country.
“They let me sob like a baby,” Smith said. “They pat me on the back and let me know it was going to be all right. My boss immediately went and grabbed a flag, and draped it over him and let me have a final moment. It was incredible. There was heartache and peace all at once that came over me.”
A loyal companion to the end
Even though he missed his dear friend, Smith would not forget all of the good time they had together, as well as the tougher moments, including those cold days in Kyrgyzstan, where all they had was each other.
“I will never forget how loyal he was,” Smith said. “He was selfless – more than any human I’ve ever known. He’s done so much for next to nothing and did it with a smile. I miss him every day.”
Smith decided to have Bodza cremated and now keeps his friend’s ashes at his home. He also keeps photos of Bodza nearby to remember him by, and his collar on the rearview mirror of his car. In this way Smith can always keep Bodza in his memory as a way to honor his friend and a fallen fellow soldier.
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