Matthew Foster, a retired Marine stands in Denver International Airport, checking his watch, looking nervous and fidgety. He’s waited for a little more than a year for his best friend and service mate to come home to him, and at this point the plane he’s waiting for has been on the ground for about 15 minutes. Needless to say, emotions were running quite high at that point.
“I have missed him. A lot,” said Foster. “I didn’t sleep at all. I was up all night.”
While on active duty in Afghanistan, Foster and Mick would scour war zones together. Their job was to sniff out hidden IED’s (improvised explosive devices) needing to be deactivated. They worked side by side, 24 hours a day, seven days a week while on active duty.
“When you’re in combat sleeping in the back of a truck, or on the floor of a shack that you guys built on your own, with a dog for eight months, it’s a bond you can’t break. Pretty amazing,” said Foster. “We were together 24/7.”
They spent a total of eight months together. They even shared sleeping quarters, wherever that happened to be.
Mick is now seven years old, and is set to retire for his military career. Foster has been working with Mission K9, which reunites vets with the dogs they trained and served with overseas.
So, when Foster came home from deployment in late April, 2013, Mick still had one more tour of duty to go before retirement. This would be Mick’s fourth and final trip to war.
As Mick was being brought through the airport, he noticed Foster and practically leapt over an entire crowd of people to get to him. The tail would not stop wagging, and Mick was absolutely panting with excitement.
Foster’s first words to his best friend and service mate were, “I missed you! You doing alright?”
Thanks to Mission K9, Mick will spend the rest of his days with Foster in Colorado. Foster is retired now as well, and is studying business and finance while working at an animal hospital as well.
“It’s a different bond when you’re over there with this dog and he keeps you alive. Not only that, but emotionally and everything. Just keeps you together,” Foster said. “They’re putting their life on the line just as much as we are. And the sad truth is, a lot of dogs die doing this. And it’s because they’re trying to protect us. It’s just amazing what they do.”
Foster wasn’t 100% sure he was going to be reunited with Mick. That’s where Mission K9 came into play. They spent eight months together in Afghanistan and a year apart.
“I did not stop until I knew I was getting him,” said Foster.