Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was the site of an especially emotional reunion this week. Two years ago, Sgt. Jason Bos said farewell to Cilia, the bomb-sniffing chocolate Lab that he served with in Iraq. The two of them had spent over five years together, searching for explosives in Iraq. “They tell you not to get too attached, that they’re not a pet, they’re a tool to help keep people safe,” Bos said to the Chicago Tribune. “But it’s hard.”
Bos definitely did get attached, and when a back injury forced him to leave the military in 2012, she stayed behind. A new handler took charge of Cilia, and although Bos kept in touch with him, there was no reason to believe that he’d see her again.
But last month, he saw on Facebook that Cilia, after serving seven years as a military working dog, was retiring. When the kennel master at his former base asked if Bos wanted to give Cilia a new home, the answer was easy: “I said ‘Yes. What do I have to do?”
If the answer was easy, turning it into a reality was less so. Because it’s the military, and because it involved international travel, there was paperwork to do. Lots of it. But even the labyrinthine bureaucracy necessary to get a military working dog into retirement wasn’t the biggest obstacle; Cilia was in Germany, and the military wasn’t about to pay for her travel expenses. A retired working dog is classified as “surplus equipment” under military regulations. Bos describes him civilian life as being a “poor college student,” and love for his former partner alone wasn’t enough to get her to the United States. With a $1,500 grant from the American Humane Society, Mission K9 Rescue, a group that serves retired and retiring Working Dogs, was able to reunite Jason Bos and Cilia.
If the news coverage of their meeting yesterday is any indication, it was money well-spent. According to the Chicago Tribune Bos was initially worried about whether Cilia would remember his voice. But when she stepped out of the travel container at O’Hare, that worry was gone. “She looked at me, she started smelling me, she knew me,” Bos said.
When she was serving, Cilia slept in a concrete kennel every night; his mother’s boyfriend has built a new, more comfortable doghouse for Cilia’s homecoming, but Bos says that she’s welcome to the living room couch if she wants it. “Her whole life has been about working,” he said. “Now it’s time for her to worry about just relaxing.”
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