Military Service Held for Veteran Dog Killed by Bicyclist

“It was in their mutual woundedness that they began to heal. The horrors and nightmares they held in common were the very thing that healed those wounds,” said Rev. Megan Nickles.

11.12.15 - Military Service Held for Veteran Dog Killed by Bicyclist1


On Wednesday – Veterans Day – a memorial service was held for Major Mike, a nine-year-old Belgian Malinois who sniffed out explosives in Iraq.  He was discharged honorably, but was tragically shot by a bicyclist last month.  Over 100 people turned up for his service.

Wednesday’s service was sad for all in attendance, but especially so for Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bessler of Powell, Wyoming.  He was Michael’s handler, and later his adoptive dad when they were discharged.  He called the dog his “brother, protector, co-pilot, and best friend.”

Bessler met Mike before one of his six deployments overseas, and the pair served together as handler and bomb-sniffing dog for over a year.

“They lived, slept and worked together in a powerful partnership, serving their country, their army, their special forces and their brothers in arms,” Rev. Megan Nickles of St. John’s Episcopal Church said at Wednesday’s service. “The work Mike did with Matt spared countless lives.”


11.12.15 - Military Service Held for Veteran Dog Killed by Bicyclist5


The two-time Bronze Star recipient came home from Iraq with PTSD.  So did Mike.  But in a rather unusual instance, Mike was able to be retrained to be a psychological service animal (not a therapy dog).

“It was in their mutual woundedness that they began to heal,” Nickles said.  “The horrors and nightmares they held in common were the very thing that healed those wounds.”

She said Michael knew just what Bessler needed… knew him better than anyone else.

“We couldn’t talk, but Mike understood — or I understood ‘doganese,’” he explained.

But their time together wasn’t meant to last.


11.12.15 - Military Service Held for Veteran Dog Killed by Bicyclist4


On October 10th, a bicyclist shot and killed Mike near his rural home.  Jeffery Brandt said that he felt bad about the incident, but that he had acted in self-defense after the dog attacked him.  The Park County Sheriff’s Office concluded their investigation last week and determined that evidence supported Brandt’s account.  But that doesn’t ease the pain in Bessler’s heart.

The only thing that would even slightly assuage him was the notion that Mike would receive a military funeral.

“These guys, we said, ‘you bet, we’ll do that,’” said John Bustos, the Powell Veterans Honor Guard commander.  “It’s not just a dog. It’s our comrade.

“People that have never seen these dogs in action, never seen them doing anything else except bark and stuff like that, they don’t understand the closeness that a dog handler has, the love he has for that (dog).  We consider them a human being.”


11.12.15 - Military Service Held for Veteran Dog Killed by Bicyclist3


Bessler spoke of Mike’s numerous admirable qualities at Northwest College before the procession to Crown Hill Cemetery.  Though Mike wasn’t allowed to be buried at the humans-only graveyard, military honors were held around his headstone.

“He was dedicated not only to his job in the military, but as my service animal,” Bessler said.

“A dog watches your back just as much, if not more, than a person would,” said Matt Sagrilla, another Powell veteran.  “They’re not given enough credit — [not] nearly enough credit.”

Though Sagrilla doesn’t personally know Bessler, he attended the commemoration to pay respects to his fellow servicemen.

“Just because I understand.  I was there. I get it, and at the end of the day, that’s kind of all you’ve got left anyway.”


11.12.15 - Military Service Held for Veteran Dog Killed by Bicyclist6

170 thoughts on “Military Service Held for Veteran Dog Killed by Bicyclist

  1. RIP Major Mike. Hope they caught the creep that ended your life. You survived the war only to be killed on US soil…smh

  2. I read the article and unfortunately it seems he attacked the man before he was shot…… heart hurts for his handler……Mike should have been leashed.

  3. Really powerful love between these two. I hope that Sgt. Bessler will find peace in knowing how much love and bonding that Major Mike knew with him.

  4. Unbelivable…Murder by a bicyclist that had a gun! he survived the war..and shot to dead by an ignorant murderer!! The worls is so messed up.

  5. What the hell kind of person rides a bicycle while armed and shoots a service dog and war veteran dog?! Unbelievable. May the beautiful dog rest in peace. If only we could be half the people dogs are.

  6. Coward bicyclist, scared of a dog and shot him. A well trianed service dog does not just attack. That idiot had that syndrome the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion had, they have to shoot some animal in order to feel tough in their cowardly lives he couldnt wait to discharge that gun. Coward

  7. Man. I remember reading the article when he was just killed. It was painful and surreal to read. Seeing his friend and partner crying at his funeral is even more painful to watch. I cannot imagine the pain he feels, especially since he had someone by his side who was helping him heal and understood him. My condolences

  8. A lot of dumb ass comments on this thread. I love my dog, and dogs in general, but did you not read the story?! This was a military trained Shepard; it could kill you with ease. The investigation showed the bicyclist acted in self defense. In rural areas you should keep a gun , because you could face wildlife. The dog suffered from PTSD and took the cyclist as a threat and attacked. People here are saying they hope the cyclist dies… Wtf is wrong with you? So if you lose a family member to a dog, I suppose you’re ok with that? I love dogs more than people, but I would defend my life with deadly force against any animal. The story states the cyclist felt terrible.. you people calling for the death of the bicyclist are sick.

  9. Thanks for your service Major Mike may you rest in peace, and to your human friend, thank you for your Service Sir.As for the bicyclist shame. I have no other words for you but I know what I would do to you.

  10. I see a lot of hatred for the man who shot Mike, a lot of ill will being wished upon him, I don’t agree with that kind of tact at all. I wish people were not so quick to the trigger, I am an animal lover just like most of you folks posting hate on here, rather than sewing more hatred, have this be about a wonderful creature who undoubtably saved so many lives, and was put in harms way not because he wanted to but because his human was right there with him. Mike’s story and his comrades will not be forgotten by me, and I hope others take a step back and realize what this is about. Remember the selflessness from both human soldiers as well as the 4 legged ones. Sgt. I wish for you to find peace, the bond you had with him is not easily found. I am greatful that you had it as my dogs (although not service members like Mike) have helped carry me through some of the toughest things in life. God bless the men, woman and any other being that has served our country. I am blessed to have 4 dogs who have watched over my son since the day he was born.

  11. I wasn’t there, but whenever someone kills a dog (cops) they always say the dog attacked, I felt my life was in danger, so I had to shoot, so I just kink of wonder about this!!

  12. There’s a lot of this story I don’t understand.. Ok, the cyclist was in Wyoming, but the need to be packing heat instead of bear spray is a little off. I lived and camped in bear country and never felt the need to carry a gun. If the bear spray didn’t work it was just your time to go. I was in their space in the first place. The other thing is; although it’s stated that Mike was retrained, and you live in a rural area, why wasn’t the dog supervised? I don’t care where you live, you don’t leave a potentially lethal animal running loose. That’s just being irresponsible. The owner needs to share responsibility with the bicyclist, no matter the emotions involved. Both were at fault and it shouldn’t be sensationalized that it was only one.

  13. I ride road bikes and at the most I would have thrown some dog biscuits and had a spray…..I carry a gun, but would have put the bike between the dog and me before pulling a trigger. I know bicyclists who hate drivers and dogs and are just looking for fights to help the right to cycle cause. There are drivers who want to hurt cyclists, too, but dogs are dogs. I don’t ride without planning for the worst… have to. Thus the biscuits and dog spray. It can happen in regular neighborhoods.IMHO, the bicyclist was just waiting for this opportunity.

  14. It’s very hard to read but in this case I understand why it happened.

    First, the article clearly says the dog has PTSD so it isn’t a fluffy friend.

    Second Belgians are no joke trained with bite work or not. They are incredibly strong, fast, smart, and 100% able to do a person serious harm. That’s why we use them.

    Third if you read his account, a group of dogs chased him and he couldn’t get away so he put the bike between him and the dogs but Mike started to try to go through the the cross bars.

    I could see a dog amped up by other dogs, with a history of being property defensive, trying to get a tag on a guy, one that would for sure mean a trip to the hospital at the least.

    He said he finally popped him in the rear right quarter but a piece hit his chest and ultimately is what killed him(he was able to limp away)

    The cops were immediately called and the guy complied 100%

    Also, the cyclist is a retired Vet too, something these articles are conveniently leaving out.

    If you have a dog known to have PTSD, gone after folks before, from a strong breed, you have to be extra careful. As it turns out it was his friend watching the dogs who didn’t secure them.

    Terrible thing that happened and I feel bad for the handler, but don’t condemn the cyclist.

  15. Does anybody read the stories? The dog was shot in confirmed SELF DEFENSE! Dogs, especially a Belgian malinois can kill.

  16. Sad ? But I wonder why would the dog randomly attack a cyclist? And why was ptsd dog alone outside unattended? Some things don’t add up. ?

  17. Another dog shot what is he– is wrong with people???????? Anyone holding a license for a gun needs to be tested in a big big way!!!!! Whoever did this needs to be held accountable and be penalized a a great way!!!!!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.