(Florida Times-Union) -- Military K-9s put their lives on the line just like the men and women who work alongside them, but in death they rarely get the same type of honor as their human counterparts.
A ceremony Saturday will feature plenty of prestige when the life of Dingo — a Belgian Malinois based at Mayport Naval Station until retiring in 2012 — is celebrated with full military honors.
Instead of working for paychecks or accolades, Dingo completed his missions hoping for one thing in return: unconditional love from his handler.
That bond between handler and K-9 was so strong that when Dingo retired, Nick Converso decided to adopt his longtime companion.
“They always refer to it as when you work with a dog it’s kind of like a dance,” Converso said. “That fluid movement, the way we trained, the way we searched for explosives, it was always easy with him.”
Converso recalled one occasion in Iraq when they were clearing a roadside and Dingo located a massive amount of hidden explosives.
“If this wasn’t located by Dingo, it could of gone off in the middle of the convoy,” he said.
Converso will salute his comrade one last time when he receives a folded American flag at the Jacksonville Pet Funeral Home, Pet Cremation Center and Pet Cemetery at 4969 Beach Blvd.
“I’m going to be happy that his service wasn’t overlooked and that people actually acknowledge what they do,” Converso said of military K-9s.
He retired shortly after Dingo and now works with K-9s at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. He said the decision to put Dingo down was one of the hardest things he’s had to do in life.
“Spiritually he was there. He was still the young pup I remember,” Converso said.
But Dingo’s 14-year-old body was breaking down after a long career.