Arka, a female German shepherd, was a fixture at the annual School of the Americas Watch protests at the gates of Fort Benning. Fons, a male Belgian Malinois, served in Iraq and provided security for presidents and other high-level government officials.
But their days of sniffing for bombs, locating illegal drugs and chasing fleeing suspects came to an end Friday. Both were retired as military working dogs and adopted by two soldiers.
Im excited, said Staff Sgt. Alexis Scott, the new owner of Arka.
She became attached to the dog after she was assigned to Warrior Transition Battalion. Limited by back and shoulder injuries sustained during training in northern Iraq, she was assigned at the Working Military Dogs Kennels off 10th Division Road while the Army considers her future in the military.
Staff Sgt. James Tolley, a member of the 209th Military Police working dog section, is the owner of Fons after being assigned with the dog from 2005 to 2010 in Germany and Iraq, and assigned duties in Ghana, Africa, and the Ukraine to protect presidents during visits.
The dog protected presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Tolley recalled how Fons made a difference when they were deployed to Iraq.
Being with Fons in Iraq was great, he said. I was at a small outpost. It was good to have my buddy there with me. I always had a companion.
Fons has already met Tolleys family and his two other dogs. Before he took 10-year-old Fons home in his vehicle, Tolley noticed the dog still wants to sniff the vehicle for bombs.
I think the biggest challenge is not wanting to check for explosives, Tolley said. Just taking him to my vehicle the other day to take him home, he walked up to it and started sniffing around.
Although the dogs are retired, they are not your average canine.
Each dog costs the Army about $3,000 and by the time one is trained and on duty, the dog has about $50,000 invested in training, vets and kennel care, said Sgt. 1st Class Edgar Arnall, kennel master at Fort Benning.
Arka is 9 years old and had started slowing down.
She is not only old, but she is working like she is old, Arnall said. She was slowing down, not working as hard on narcotics.
Arka has been at Fort Benning since training at Lackland Air Force Base where the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School is located near San Antonio, Texas.
She has been an asset to Fort Benning for the last six years, Arnall said. Fons is still playful but his age shows with patches of gray hair around his eyes. Tolley said its time to find a place on the couch with his wife, Maurean, daughter, Cailins, 5, and son, Aiden, 2.
He just wants to play with a toy all day, sit back and be lazy, Tolley said.
Scott said it took about a year to get all the paperwork submitted to adopt Arka. Although the two soldiers adopted the dogs, Arnall said anyone can apply. To get the paperwork, go to the Military Working Dog website at lackland.af.mil.