Hundreds of people provided a send-off for a military bomb-sniffer dog who served three tours in Afghanistan and who had to be put down after being diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.
Cena, a 10-year-old black labrador, was cheered and clapped as he was carried aboard USS LST 393, a museum ship in Muskegon, Michigan, where he was put to sleep. The dog’s body was then carried off in a coffin draped with a US flag.
The Associated Press said that Cena was a bomb-sniffer for the Marines until his retirement in 2014. The goodbye was organised by his owner, Lance Cpl Jeff DeYoung, who was paired with the dog in 2009 and 2010 while on a combat tour in Afghanistan and who adopted him in 2014. Cena then became Mr DeYoung’s service dog to help him with deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“My whole adult life I’ve had Cena,” Mr DeYoung told the news agency. “When I was 19 overseas, learning how to be responsible, I had Cena. And now I’m 27 and I’m having to say goodbye to one of the biggest pieces of my life.”
Mr DeYoung said he had carried Cena across rivers and thrown his body over him while under heavy fire from the Taliban in Afghanistan. He said his dog had even kept him warm during freezing nights in the desert and was one of his few sources of comfort when he lost seven friends in three weeks.
Writing on Facebook the night before Cena was to be put down, Mr DeYoung spoke of dreading what he had to do the following morning.
“My last night with Cena. Words cannot convey what I’m feeling and thinking. I want to run away and not face what I must do,” he wrote. “But he needs me to be strong and set him free. He has blessed my life with love and admiration, happiness and strength. Because of him I got to have a family. Because of him I was able to live.”
As part of the send-off, Mr DeYoung took his dog on a final ride in a topless Jeep that was decorated and named “Cancer Response Team”.
“It started off with my basically wanting to go to a dealership and wanting to borrow a Jeep for a day and really small to a community tribute or a community parade for him and he’s truly deserved it all,” said Mr DeYoung.
“The support, all the love people are giving him, he can see it and he can feel it.”
The ceremony was attended by officials from the US Marine Corps League, Michigan State Police, Muskegon County…