Air Force family giving former working dog 'real retirement'
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 21, 2010 12:42 PM
Cameron, Rhianna and Adam Foster play with their Belgian Malinois, Agbar, at their home in Goldsboro. The dog served seven years in the U.S. Air Force as an explosives dog before he was retired and then adopted by the Foster family.
Adam Foster tightened his grip and let out a playful growl.
At 6 years old, he probably didn't fully understand just whose neck he had his arms wrapped around.
The boy's parents don't know much about the Belgian Malinois' past either.
But they do know that Agbar -- formerly known as Military Working Dog J-125 -- served his country, and that he is a veteran of the same Air Force of which the family's patriarch, Bill, is currently a member.
And his seven years of service, his new family members say, earned him much more than a soft bed to sleep in.
"He deserves a real retirement," the dog's mother, Danell, said. "I just don't know what I would do without him. He's just so special."
The Fosters have been talking about adopting a retired Military Working Dog for years, after learning of the fate they meet when they are not taken into someone's home after their service to the nation is complete -- if they cannot be utilized by law enforcement agencies near the base from which they are discharged, they are euthanized.
"He could have saved an airman's life, who knows?" Bill said, looking down at Agbar, who was holding a plastic toy in his mouth firmly as he walked from person to person, wagging his tail. "So he deserves to have a good home."
And last July, he got one.
"All of a sudden, I got a phone call ... 'We got you a dog,'" Danell said. "I was jumping up and down like a kid who just got the biggest lollipop in the world."
But when they finally got Agbar from a base in Texas to his new home in Goldsboro, it was clear he wasn't used to life as a simple companion.
Bill remembers one of the first times he walked the dog around the family house -- how Agbar "found" something in his daughter's bedroom.
"He's smelling (the bookcase) and you can tell he doesn't like it, so he stops and just starts staring," Bill said. "I thought, 'What? Is my daughter hiding explosives?'"
It turns out the aging sniffer was fooled by the scent coming off a marker.
Life has changed dramatically for Agbar since his adoption less than a year ago.
Victory, these days, is measured by how long he can hold on to his toy while one of his new handlers tries to pry it from his mouth.
"Oh, boy. He's going to eat you," Danell said, as her daughter, Cameron, started toward the toy and Agbar showed his teeth.
"He's pretty awesome," Cameron replied. "He does growl and stuff but that's only because he's having fun."
And the dog's only mission now, as far as the Fosters are concerned, is to live out his retirement happy and healthy -- just as he, they say, likely allowed others he served with to do.
"We have our father and sons, a lot of them come home because of these dogs," Danell said. "He's just so great. We love him so much."
And when 11-year-old Rhianna pulled him in for a kiss Friday afternoon -- a kiss he took with eyes closed, while his tail was wagging -- you could tell Agbar feels the same way about them.
"He's the best dog in the whole world," Adam said.
Those who wish to learn more about adopting a retired Air Force Military Working Dog, visit www.lackland.af.mil/units/341stmwd/index.asp.