FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Canto is enjoying retirement -- he gets to sleep in the bed, run around the park with his buddy, a dingo, and eat all the homemade gourmet treats his owners can bake. "He's definitely enjoying civilian life," said Staff Sgt. Larry Chartier, Canto's owner and dog handler with the 69th Military Police Detachment (Military Working Dog), 148th MP Detachment, 759th MP Battalion. "He is loving life." Chartier and Canto have a history. They met in Germany in 2009 after Chartier became a dog handler. The "green handler" and "green dog" instantly clicked. "He was the first dog I picked up as a handler," Chartier said. "He's one of the smartest dogs I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. … I fell in love with him right off the bat." The two deployed together twice, once to Afghanistan and once to Iraq, performing cache searches as well as route and building clearance.
As a patrol explosive detector dog, Canto's mission was to sniff out possible explosive material. Chartier's job was to make sure Canto was up to the task. "We never lost anybody and that was because of Canto," he said. "We didn't find much (on patrols), but nothing ever went 'boom' behind me." During one search, Canto located a cache in the midst of a large field, Chartier said. "The unit we were supporting, they said their mission was a success because of him," he said. When Chartier came to Fort Carson in June, he had to leave his partner of three years behind in Germany. After veterinarians determined Canto could no longer perform the duties of a military working dog due to canine degenerative myelopathy -- a condition that affects the rear legs of the animal, causing progressive weakness and lack of coordination -- they called Chartier. "I got the phone call asking if I wanted to adopt him," he said. "I said 'of course.'" The two reunited March 18, once the extensive paperwork and customs protocols were complete. "Adopting these dogs are very important to us," said Staff Sgt. Garry Mattingly, 69th MP Detachment (MWD). "These dogs need a good home." Mattingly said once military working dogs have been identified for adoption, either due to medical reason, behavioral issues or old age, servicemembers put the animal through a series of tests to determine what kind of home they can be adopted into.
"We do random tests to see how aggressive they are," he said. "If a dog is too aggressive, they may be adopted to a police department or they'll go back to the kennels at Lackland (Air Force Base in San Antonio)." Mattingly said anyone can adopt a military working dog, although preference is given to handlers and servicemembers. "It has to be a good fit for the dog," he said. Although Canto may be retired, he's still fulfilling a mission. "If you're having a bad day, he's right there," Chartier said. "He just wants to make sure you're happy."