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Retired military dogs reunite with their former Marine Corps handlers after years apart


(NEW YORK) — Two military service members — U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Isaac Weissend and Marine Corps veteran Dalton Stone — have been reunited with the dogs they handled in service overseas.

Weissend and Stone first connected while serving in Japan with one another as military dog, or K-9, handlers. They built a strong bond with each other and became best friends. They also created strong connections with their respective German shepherd counterparts, 6-year-old male Poker and 6-year-old female Aida.

Poker and Weissend even protected President Joe Biden during a special mission in Korea, where they swept flights, hotels, vehicles, and buildings for explosives.

“Every day with Poker was a great day,” Weissend said, according to American Humane, an animal-welfare organization that helped reunite the men with their K-9s.

Both handlers were forced to separate with the K-9s in 2022 when Weissend was reassigned to another base and Stone retired from the Marines for medical reasons.

“Anything and everything we did together,” Stone said about Aida, according to American Humane.

The men, who are still friends and live a few hours apart in Texas, learned that Poker, who served as an explosives-detection and patrol dog for four-and-a-half years, and Aida, who had served as a narcotics-detection and patrol dog for four and a half years, were being retired from military service at the same time.

They immediately volunteered to adopt the retired K-9s and reached out to American Humane for help bringing their dogs from Japan to Texas — a week-long trip that included five stops.

American Humane told ABC News in a statement that it handles the complex process of international and national transport of retired K-9 veterans on behalf of their former military handlers who want to adopt them. The group has reunited 60 pairs since 2014, according to American Humane.

“We’ve reunited dozens of retired military dogs with their former handlers, but this special reunion was still a first for American Humane,” Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, told ABC News in a statement. “It was an honor to help two best friends bring their other best friends home. All four of these military heroes deserve our gratitude and support after serving our country.”

The retired K-9s reunited with their former handlers in Tyler, Texas, on May 4, 2024, after more than a year separated. American Humane pledged to cover the dogs’ veterinary bills for the rest of their lives.

ABC News’ Dhanika Pineda contributed to this report.

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