A send-off for a military bomb-sniffer dog who served three tours in Afghanistan was provided by hundreds of people after the dog was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.
Cena, a 10-year-old black labrador, was applauded and cheered as he was carried aboard the USS LST 393 in Michigan, where he was put to sleep. The body of the dog was then draped with a US flag and carried off in a coffin.
AP reported that Cena was a bomb-sniffer for the Marines until his retirement in 2014. The farewell was organised by Lance Cpl Jeff DeYoung, his owner, who was paired with the dog while on a combat tour in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 and who adopted him years later in 2014. Cena then became a service dog for Mr DeYoung, helping him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“My whole adult life I’ve had Cena,” Mr DeYoung told the Associated Press. “When I was 19 overseas, learning how to be responsible, I had Cena. And now I’m 27 and I’m having to say goodbye to one of the biggest pieces of my life.”
Mr DeYoung said he had thrown Cena’s body over him while under heavy fire from the Taliban and carried him across rivers in Afghanistan. He said his dog was one of his few sources of comfort when he lost seven friends in three weeks and even kept him warm during freezing nights in the desert.
Mr DeYoung spoke of dreading about what he head to do the following morning, on the night before Cena was to be put down on Facebook.
“My last night with Cena. Words cannot convey what I’m feeling and thinking. I want to run away and not face what I must do,” he wrote. “But he needs me to be strong and set him free. He has blessed my life with love and admiration, happiness and strength. Because of him I got to have a family. Because of him I was able to live.”