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Home for the Holidays: American Humane Reunites Retired Military Working Dog with Former Air Force Handler After Two Years Apart

SSgt. Mike Alcala Adopts K-9 Veteran John in San Antonio

Washington, D.C. – This week, American Humane reunited retired military working dog John with his former K-9 handler, U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Mike Alcala, in San Antonio, Texas. The once-inseparable pair have been apart for over two years and will now be together for the holidays as John finds his forever home to live out his retirement.

The 10-year-old German shepherd served as an explosive-detection dog at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for eight years. He retired this month due to old age, ending a distinguished military career spent protecting civilians, his fellow service members, and high-profile VIPs, including American presidents, first ladies, foreign dignitaries, and more. A special retirement ceremony was conducted in his honor in Hawaii last week to celebrate his years of dedicated service. 

SSgt. Alcala was John’s handler for three years, during which time the two formed an unbreakable bond. They were separated in September 2021 when SSgt. Alcala was reassigned to another base. The moment he learned that John would retire, SSgt. Alcala reached out to American Humane for help transporting his best friend home for adoption.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to bring military working dog John home for the holidays and reunite him with his best friend,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “American Humane is honored to help give this four-legged veteran the comfortable retirement he deserves after eight years of distinguished service to our country.”

“When I found out that John was up for retirement, of course, I wanted him so bad,” said SSgt. Mike Alcala. “I heard about American Humane through a buddy of mine, so I thought I would reach out and see what American Humane could do for me and John. They were gracious to help go pick him up in Hawaii, transport him back to me, and without me having to pay anything. It’s just been a blessing for us.”

In addition to transporting John from Hawaii to San Antonio, American Humane is also covering all of John’s veterinary care for the rest of his life.

During the emotional reunion on Wednesday, Dec. 20, SSgt. Alcala and his wife, Brittany Alcala, introduced their 10-month-old daughter to John—the newest member of the Alcala family. 

MILITARY WORKING DOG REUNIFICATION BACKGROUND:

• K-9 handlers and their military working dogs form unbreakable bonds while serving our country. Unfortunately, however, they are often separated when one of them retires or is reassigned.

• When a military dog is retired from service, it can be difficult for the military to track down their latest handler for adoption, let alone figure out how to transport the dog home. The extensive process involves a lot of paperwork, headaches, and red tape, and the costs and responsibilities usually fall on the handler.

• American Humane handles the complex process of international and national transport of retired K-9 veterans on behalf of their former military handlers, who are thrilled to adopt them.

• Handlers reach out to American Humane for help reuniting with their K-9 counterparts. The organization covers the travel costs to transport the dog, as well as the dog’s ongoing veterinary care.

• Like humans, K-9 veterans often retire with health complications that require expensive medical care. The government does not cover these costs. That’s why American Humane covers all veterinary bills for the working dogs it brings home—ensuring these K-9 veterans get the comfortable, dignified retirements they deserve.

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