This German Shepherd got a hero's goodbye when he finally succumbed to his illness.
Bodza, an 11-year-old German Shepherd, lived a long, meaningful life and the airmen and women with whom he worked with will never forget him.
Bodza was a bomb detection dog with the U.S. Air Force and worked with soldiers in Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, and Kuwait. He worked tirelessly as an explosion detection dog, risking his life every day to keep American airmen safe.
Bodza had a special friendship with one such solder, Kyle Smith. Smith and Bodza started working together in 2012 and bonded strongly during a security mission in Kyrgyzstan. Soon it was time for Bodza to retire and there was no question that Smith would adopt him for good.
"I loved working with him because he taught me a lot -- patience as a young handler, and how to understand that this job isn't just about you," Smith told The Dodo.
They lived a good life together.
"Bodza was a goofy and gentle dog," Smith said. "We had horse stables directly beside our obedience yard and when [the horses] were out, no obedience was going to be done. He'd run the fence line continuously."
READ MORE: 14-Year-Old Missouri Girl Teaches Her Horse to Bow in Respect to Veterans
In 2016, Bodza was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a disease that affects the spine.
"His hind limbs lost their use and he could barely stand up anymore, much less walk," Smith said. "He couldn't handle the stress on his body and using the restroom was a task."
In early March, Smith took Bodza to a clinic in El Paso, Texas, where he currently works as a military dog handler. He was met there with other soldiers and airmen who had worked with the loyal K9. It was time to put Bodza down.
And while putting Bodza down wasn't easy on any of the airmen who owed their lives to the loyal dog, it was almost like Bodza was relieved to be rid of the pain.
"I was holding Bodza as he passed," Smith said. "It was a rush of so many things. It was just overwhelming."
"He had a smile on his face when he was getting put to sleep."
The airmen thought it was only appropriate to give Bodza a true hero's goodbye and requested that the dog's body be draped with an American Flag.
The image of the airman saying goodbye to this cherished military dog has since gone viral.
And for good reason. Military dogs are a huge asset to our servicemen and women. They not only aid in important jobs such as explosive detection and Army base security, they also provide love and companionship to soldiers who are far away from home.
The story of Bodzi is one that will touch the hearts of not only K9 handlers who have worked with dogs overseas but all animal lovers and true Americans everywhere.
What do you think of this touching story? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Images by Kyle Smith via The Dodo. This post was originally published on January 8, 2018. The article has been updated to reflect the correct name of the handler and the references to the service branch. The titling was updated on December 23, 2019, to reflect factual correction of Smith's position.
WATCH NOW: 10 of the Smartest Dog Breeds
Love reading about pets?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.