MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
The 42nd Security Forces Squadron held a memorial service for a deceased military working dog, Sept. 18, 2018, on Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Wotan, an explosive detection dog with more than eight and a half years of service to the U.S. Air Force, had advanced medical issues that the kennel master and veterinarians determined were already too developed for the dog to continue serving.
During the memorial, Airmen and leadership from around the installation gathered to pay their respects for their fallen teammate. Speakers shared how much respect they had for this dog and how his legacy will live on.
“I was pretty close with him,” said Airman 1st Class Devin Hopkins, 42nd SFS and previous handler for Wotan. “When you go through K-9 school, they teach to not treat these dogs like pets because they are tools for the U.S. Air Force. But when it’s your dog and you’re the handler, you still want that bond because that’s somebody that you trust with your life and they trust you with theirs.”
Hopkins said that having this bond with his partner provided many benefits to their relationship, such as the sense that he could talk to this dog about anything going on in his life.
“Whatever I may be going or stressing through, even though I knew he was not listening, it just felt like he was,” he said. “It’s just amazing you have that person you work with eight or 12 hours a day, depending on the shift, that you’re probably with more than you are with your family. It really is good to have that bond because you know that he is going to do what he needs to do in order to protect you.”
Despite retiring about a year earlier than the average MWD, Wotan proved his value over his near decade of service through successful missions both local and abroad, according to Hopkins. He recalled a specific mission he went on with Wotan, which he said will certainly remain one of the most memorable.
The mission brought Hopkins and Wotan to Atlanta in order to work with the Secret Service to prepare for the arrival of President Donald Trump and his family before his speech at a convention at the Georgia World Congress Center in 2017.
“When we were in the hotel the night before the event, it was about three or four in the morning and I had to be up at eight for work, so I was ready for bed,” Hopkins said. “I looked over at Wotan and he was just over there rolling around. By the time I was in bed trying to get some sleep, Wotan jumped up next to me and was throwing his paws on me trying to play. Once he knows you and trusts you, he is very lovable.”
Hopkins said that part of what made this experience so memorable for him was the fact that it was his very first mission as a K-9 handler.
Other than the mission in Atlanta, Hopkins and Wotan performed sweeps of many local forums such as the Crampton Bowl in preparation for visits from distinguished visitors.
“Every day was a good feeling with him,” Hopkins said. “Every day was something different. Riding in the patrol vehicle, I would sometimes leave the cage open and he would just poke his head out right next to me and just be looking forward with me.”