Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates — Max, a K-9 military working dog, will soon retire from the military after 11 years of service. Max has completed seven deployments, with multiple visits to Iraq and Afghanistan during his career and will leave without a pension, but a forever home instead.
His current deployment at Al Dhafra AB marks his final tour of duty. Max’s partner and handler Staff Sgt. Carmen Pontello, a 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, has begun the process of adopting Max upon completion of his tour.
After graduating dog training school at Lackland Air Force Base, TX, Max was assigned to Langley Air Force Base, VA in 2009. In his military tenure, Max competed in over 20 dog competitions placing top three in six of them. Max is also an active member of his local community, with over 120 demonstrations within the local populace.
As Max’s handler, Pontello has had three previous MWD’s, but says his connection with Max is unlike any other working dog he’s met.
"His behavior really sets him apart from any other dog I’ve worked with," Pontello said "He can be a very affectionate dog, but when he puts his collar and vest on, he knows it’s time to go to work. Our personalities are so similar that it makes coming to work really fun."
Max is considered senior in age but his spirit is comparable to a younger dog, according to Pontello.
"His drive for odor is amazing," said Pontello. "His drive for the bite is amazing, and we do really well together, but that’s just because he is just a really stellar dog."
The process of pairing a handler and a K-9 working dog requires the kennel master to pair the working duo by matching similar personalities. Pontello considers himself lucky for the opportunity to work with Max.
"I’ve been K-9 handling for a little over a year., I’ve always wanted to be a handler. I had to apply multiple times before my cards were right and I was lucky enough to get a position. All the dogs that I could have worked with were really great, but I think I’m still pretty lucky I got this opportunity to work with Max."
When the day comes for Max’s retirement, he will receive the full honors of a military service member that retires, to include a flag folding ceremony and a giant steak to top off the celebration of a successful career.
"I can’t wait till I can spoil him with a big couch and just let him be a dog for the rest of his life, he’s a good boy and he really deserves it," said Pontello .