For USAF service member Kyle Smith and his beloved dog Bodza – their bond was built from an incredible story and they had spent almost 200 days serving on a security mission in Kyrgyzstan. To say that they were close is an understatement.
Bozda, who lived to be 11 years old, was a trained armed-services German shepherd who served with Smith beginning in 2012 while deployed to Kyrgyzstan. He was later paired with a new dog for a different assignment, but in 2014 when Bodza was retired, Smith’s superior surprised him with the adoption papers – knowing all the while Smith had wanted to bring Bodza home from the battlefield.
“Bodza was a goofy and gentle dog,” Smith said according to The Dodo. “We had horse stables directly beside our obedience yard and when [the horses] were out, no obedience was going to be done. He’d run the fence line continuously.”
Smith also called the pup a “gentle giant” adding that “he was trained to bite – but I swear he only did it to make people happy.”
The sweet dog got to spend the next three years with Smith after a lifetime of service to the United States Air Force, but in 2017, Smith got some terrible news about Bodza’s health.
During a drive to their new home in Texas, Smith began to notice that Bodza’s health wasn’t quite up to what it used to be. He first noticed that he couldn’t jump into the vehicle anymore and, instead, he had to lift Bodza up into it.
Over the next little while, Bodza’s health began to decline even further. Looking at his beloved dog, he could see that his front legs couldn’t support him very well and he had started to have mobility issues on smooth surfaces.
The good boy that was once a spry, tough, battle-hardened dog, was now fighting to do normal things as part of everyday life.
After a trip to the vet, Smith revealed that Bodza was suffering from degenerative myelopathy – a disease that impacts motor skills and other functions by attacking the spinal cord. There is no cure for it. That was the moment when Smith realized he had an incredibly difficult decision to make.
“It was the saddest thing — he was dragging himself along the tile floor because it was hard to maneuver. Instead of putting him on the table, I had a minute with him on the floor,” Smith told Inside Edition. “I just kept holding him, rubbing and kissing his head, telling him, ‘I’m going to miss you.'”
Smith, along with nine of his fellow USAF coworkers, laid a blanket on the floor and tried to make Bodza as comfortable as possible. Despite the emotionally-difficult situation, Smith says that Bodza appeared content during his final moments.
“I was holding Bodza as he passed,” Smith said. “It was a rush of so many things. It was just overwhelming…he had a smile on his face when he was getting put to sleep.”
“They let me sob like a baby,” Smith said of his coworkers. “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.”
The passing of a loved one is always hard – no matter if they have fur or not.
Bodza passed away at the end of February 2017. Smith had him cremated and keeps his ashes at home along with a series of his favorite photos. Bodza’s collar hangs from the rearview mirror of his car, too.
“All of us have that dog that is so special to us,” Smith explained. “I got married with this dog, I got divorced with this dog. I have a son on the way, and the most heartbreaking part is I really wish he was younger, so my son would be able to play with him. He was the nicest dog in the world.”
— Tag The Flag (@tagtheflag) March 1, 2018
Watch this heartbreaking story of one soldier’s love for his fellow servicemember K9 below.