Back in 2012, Joe Steenbeke trained to be a Technical Explosive Detection Dog (TEDD) Handler and went to K-9 training in Denver, IN.
That’s where he met Tess.
Months of intense training followed until they were approved as combat-ready.
“You truly never know which car you’re going up to search could have a bomb on it, which could have a bad guy in it that’s going to try and shoot you and your dog,” Joe told WNDU. “You truly just have to go off of your training and your practice and things that you worked on and you have to 110 percent trust that bond that you have with your dog.”
Joe and his wife, Steph, have been trying for years to get Tess back, but she is still deployed. His wife knows how healing it would be for her husband, who suffers from PTSD, to be reunited with his partner.
“I knew I needed to do everything I could to make it happen,” Steph said. “To know that missing piece gets to come home would just mean everything to us and it would all just be worth it.”
They are hoping that soon, when Tess retires, they will be permitted to adopt her. And they’re hoping their story can help spread awareness, so that other retired handlers will be allowed to adopt their soldier dogs, as well.