Retired Air Force Tech Sergeant, Jason Spangenberg carried his former partner, Rico, on January 24, into the veterinary clinic at Dover Air Force Base. He knew this was going to be the end for his best friend.

So did the members of the 436th Security Forces Squadron. As the man and his partner passed them, they lined up together to give the dying dog a final salute.

Before becoming Spangenberg’s family pet, Rico served as explosives detection dog for eight years.

After being diagnosed with a painful condition known as degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease of the spinal cord affecting the movement of the body, a few months ago, everyone knew that the tragic end was coming.

There was an official “last call” radio alert heard all across the base which said, “To all cars, posts and patrols … to all cars, posts, and patrols … stand by on all radio transmissions … standby on all radio transmissions. Standby for the last call: BDOC to MWD Rico … BDOC to MWD Rico … BDOC to MWD Rico … End of watch for MWD Rico on January 24th, 2018. Rest in peace, MWD Rico.”

Rico had even earned a bronze star for helping Spangenberg in his missions. Together, the two detected more than 100 pounds of explosive material on more than 100 combat missions in Afghanistan. Aside from that, the pair also trained more than 300 Afghan police officers about countering improvised explosive device tactics. It was all a beautiful journey until Rico’s retirement in 2016.

The two even have a “War Dog Memorial” in downtown Dover which reads, “They protected and watched over us at home and on the field of battle. We are forever grateful for their undying loyalty, devotion and faithful service. They are not forgotten.”

And at the brick of the memorial, one can see the words, “Special thanks to Staff Sergeant Jason Spangenberg, War Dog ‘Rico.’”

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