A reunion could be in the works for a Georgia soldier and his war dog thanks to an FCN story and the power of social media. First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A reunion could be in the works for a Georgia soldier and the dog he believes was wrongfully taken from him.
First Coast News told the story this week of U.S. Army Specialist Luke Andrukitis and his wartime companion Robbie.
Robbie is a four-year-old Belgian Malinois the military used to sniff out explosives in Afghanistan. Andrukitis, who is stationed at Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., was Robbie's handler for about a year.
In a previously recorded interview, Andrukitis told FCN he and Robbie grew incredibly close.
"Literally, every waking moment you're spending with that dog, (you're) bonding because to the dog you are like this father," he said.
But a problem arose for Andrukitis and several other Ft. Stewart handlers when they returned from deployment earlier this year.
They claim the government contracted kennel, North Carolina-based K2 Solutions, adopted their canines out without their knowledge after it lost its contract with the Army.
Andrukitis said he was never kept in the loop about what was going to happen to Robbie upon their return.
"For building such a deep relationship with my dog, and after coming back, I would have liked to have known at least where he went," he said.
It was not until Tuesday morning that Andrukitis got his first big clue about Robbie's whereabouts.
FCN received a call from the wife of a private government contractor and Washington native Jeff Quackenbush, who is on assignment in Afghanistan.
She had seen Andrukitis' story circulating on Facebook and forwarded it to her husband, who explained to FCN how he came to be in possession of Robbie.
"We were looking for explosive detection dogs and we heard these were available," Quackenbush said.
He said his company adopted three dogs, including Robbie, from K2 Solutions in February of this year. That is the same month the company lost its defense contract in what its CEO called a "significant situation."
Quackenbush said he had no idea about the dogs' back story and that some military members were currently looking for them. The handlers told FCN they turned their dogs over to K2 for what they were told would be a routine evaluation.
"I didn't have any idea how things were done with the dogs," he said.
After reading Andrukitis' story online, Quackbenbush became convinced he had Robbie. The men later connected via e-mail and confirmed Robbie's tag number.
"They have the same floppy ear," he said.
Now, Quackenbush is hoping his company will let him adopt Robbie when its contract is over so he can turn him back over to the man he considers his rightful owner.
"What I would hope is if and when I leave this contract that they would give me the option of adopting Robbie," he said.
Andrukitis told FCN he is hopeful for a reunion and plans on staying in touch with Quackenbush.