Remember the story of the military dog who was shot and killed by a bicyclist who said he was attacked. The 9-year-old Belgian Malinois who served two tours of duty in Iraq with distinction and was promoted to major when he retired from an Army special operations group was back in the news recently.
In what may have been, according to the U.S. War Dog Association, only the second of its kind in history, the military dog know as Major Mike was honored with a public funeral in Wyoming.
The Army does not provide retired military working dogs with the same burial honors it does soldiers and veterans. Retired Army ranger Matthew Bessler, who was the owner and who's life was changed by Major Mike, hoped the soldier's burial for Mike would possibly change that.
More than 100 people attended the funeral. The cemetery service also included the military’s bugle call Taps, a 21-gun salute by the Wyoming National Guard, and a member of the Guard presented Bessler, as he wept, with an American flag, one of the most emotional moments of the day.
The former military dog was more than a service dog that had instinctively detected and eased the anxiety and depression in retired Ranger Bessler. He was his partner and friend.
Mike’s headstone will be next to the plot Bessler has reserved for himself.
When Mike was shot and killed, his owner Matthew Bessler was hunting in Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains. Friends were caring for Mike had no idea how the combat dog escaped from Bessler's home.
According to the story the bicyclist told sheriff's deputies, he was “attacked” by a “German shepherd-looking dog” and initially fended off the dog using his bicycle. He then told deputies, as he became more "afraid for his life," he then grabbed a revolver from his bicycle-mounted holster, and shot the dog.
“(The man) said he was genuinely in fear of his life and well-being, and the dog was ‘definitely in full attack mode and not backing down at all,’” Park County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lance Mathess summarized of the report later compiled by a deputy.
“Essentially, if you feel your life is in danger or threatened by an animal, you can act against it,” Park County Sheriff Scott Steward told the paper Wednesday.
Army veteran Bessler questions the bicyclist’s account, saying the combat dog was shot in the rear. “He has his story,” he told the Tribune. “I know my dog. I have my story.”
Bessler hopes Mike can have a burial with military honors.
“Mike was a retired major in the Army that saved a number of lives because of his work in bomb detection and everything he had done,” Bessler said.
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