Military dog reunites with veteran handler

After 3-year separation, veteran adopts bomb-sniffing dog for her retirement

By Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

A military working dog was reunited Wednesday in Jacksonville with the U.S. Air Force veteran who was her handler for three years in Iraq and Guam.

Tech Sgt. Justin Gatti of Valdosta, Georgia, had been separated from Fedro for three years, and the two reconnected at Jacksonville International Airport.

"She is just one of those dogs that I had a very special relationship with," Gatti said. "Words can't describe it. When I left her in Guam in 2012, I promised her that I'd be back for her."

Such reunions are made possible by Mission K9 Rescue, which works to bring military working dogs back to the U.S. from combat abroad and reconnect them with their former handlers.

Fedro is a 9-year-old German Shepherd and an Explosive Detection Canine who began working with Gatti in 2009. When he was assigned to her, she was fearful and had to be retaught her duties.

Gatti and Fedro worked hard to become combat ready, and they deployed to Iraq in 2010. Together, they ran about 115 combat missions in six months while supporting the defense plan on base.

They had the honor of supporting President Barack Obama in Bali for two weeks in 2011. In Guam, they were the only dog team available during a base-wide bomb threat, and single-handedly secured Andersen Air Force Base. They trained with numerous agencies together until they parted ways in 2012.

After three years apart, Gatti is adopting Fedro to ensure she has a loving, forever home for her retirement and reintegration in the United States after a lifetime of service to her country.  

"It is important to honor and protect all of our military heroes; both two and four-footed," said Kristen Maurer, president of Mission K9 Rescue.  "Military working dogs have been a vital, life-saving part of our armed services, and they deserve our support when they can no longer work.  We're happy to make the reunion of Tech Sgt. Justin Gatti and MWD Fedro M210 possible."

Mission K9 Rescue's provides transportation, adoption facilitation, monetary and professional assistance to any retired canine who has served mankind in some capacity.

The public can help make more of these reunions possible by donating to Mission K9 Rescue at www.missionk9rescue.org