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Army man adopts four-legged comrade 6 years after tour of duty

Ex-army man with his Belgian Malinois dog-happy
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An American ex-army man has adopted the loyal dog alongside whom he served in Afghanistan – after years of struggle to make the reunion happen

By G. John Cole , 5 Feb 2019

Tess, a Belgian Malinois by breed and a Tactical Explosive Detective Dog by trade, was redeployed to the Connecticut National Guard on completion of her 2013 tour of duty in South Asia. Bringing her ‘home’ involved a campaign worthy of its own daytime television movie.

“Bring her home”

Army dog handler Joe Steenbeke worked alongside Tess in the face of danger for several months before the pair were divided and wound up back home in the States – but different states. They had been given just a couple of minutes to say goodbye.

From his Indiana home, Steenbeke began a campaign to adopt Tess; a campaign that gained all the more urgency given rumours that many of America’s hero dogs were mistreated or even put down on returning home from Afghanistan. The cruel practices came to an end only when army men like Steenbeke raised their voices in defence of their canine comrades. Military dogs are even due to be celebrated on U.S. Postal Service stamps in 2019, although the response of front-line postmen to this development is not on record.

It took six years of paperwork and the co-operation of U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski's office to bring about the reunion between Tess and Steenbeke, which finally took place last weekend. “It’s been six years since I’ve had her,” he told the Southbend Tribune, “and honestly, looking at her right now, it feels like it’s been a lifetime, but it also feels like it was just yesterday that I said goodbye to her. “She still likes chewing on my thumbs.

A dog, but also an eccentric billionaire

Steenbeke doesn’t intend to allow Tess’s sharp mind and investigative instincts to fade just because she’s collecting her pension.

“I actually want to teach her how to find golf balls,” continued Steenbeke in the same interview. “But just having her around is more than enough. “We’re just looking forward to giving her a good retirement life. She’s worked so hard her entire life now she gets to sit back and have fun and live like an eccentric billionaire.”

Army dog, national guardswoman, ball hawk, but primarily a fluffy love unit, it’s a tale of heroism, peril, and cuddles. This is one TEDD (Tactical Explosive Detective Dog) that army man Steenbeke will be happy to keep at the end of his bed.


Culver resident Joe Steenbeke plays with Tess. After more then five years Steenbecke, a U.S. Army veteran, was reunited...

Posted by South Bend Tribune on Monday, February 4, 2019