2017-10-06 / Front Page

DOGGY DOG LIFE

K-9 honored for military service
Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Staff Sgt. Amanda Payne, 222nd Military Police Detachment, prepares to hand Zoti over to his new family. Zoti, an 11-yearold German Shepherd, retired from the military after 10 years of service as a patrol drug detector dog. 
Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Staff Sgt. Amanda Payne, 222nd Military Police Detachment, prepares to hand Zoti over to his new family. Zoti, an 11-yearold German Shepherd, retired from the military after 10 years of service as a patrol drug detector dog. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs The 222nd Military Police Detachment held a special ceremony for one of its four-legged heroes Sept. 28.

Zoti, an 11-year-old German Shepherd, retired from the military after 10 years of service as a patrol drug detector dog. He was then handed over to his new owner, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steven Colombe, an instructor at the U.S. Army Cyber School.

Zoti’s road to retirement began late last year when the K-9’s health started showing signs of deterioration.

“He went on a profile for a while with rest and no work in December,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Pelkey, kennel master, 222nd MP Bde.

Failure to meet standards set forth in training and health issues are two common reasons a MWD can be considered for retirement. Zoti received laser therapy on his hips and back, which after about three months was determined ineffective.


Staff Sgt. Amanda Payne, 222nd Military Police Detachment, hands 11-year-old Zoti over to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steven Colombe, U.S. Army Cyber School. Zoti, a German Shepherd, retired from the military after 10 years of service as a patrol drug detector dog. 
Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Staff Sgt. Amanda Payne, 222nd Military Police Detachment, hands 11-year-old Zoti over to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steven Colombe, U.S. Army Cyber School. Zoti, a German Shepherd, retired from the military after 10 years of service as a patrol drug detector dog. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office “That’s when we pushed for what’s called a disposition in the K-9 world, but it’s retirement,” Pelkey said.

MWDs must go through a process before retirement is approved. In Zoti’s case, the process began with Pelkey, who determined disposition was in everyone’s best interest. Pelkey presented the company commander with reasons for his recommendation, who agreed it was time for Zoti to retire. Pelkey then sent supporting paperwork to Zoti’s local veterinarian for consideration, who assisted with developing Zoti’s retirement packet. From there, his packet went to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Working Dog Program manager for approval, then onto the Department of Defense Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, for final approval.

“On the vet side, there’s more than just one ‘yes’ that needs to happen,” Pelkey said.

When a MWD retires, the K-9’s handler is typically given the option to adopt. In Zoti’s case, adoption from someone inside the unit was not feasible.

“We would all love to take him in, however, there are things going on in our lives whether it’s deployments in the near future or young kids that maybe Zoti won’t get along with,” Pelkey said.

Instead, he and the others in 222nd MP Bde. reached outside of the unit for a suitable family. And like disposition, the process takes time. Luckily for Zoti, it didn’t take long. Colombe was identified earlier this year as a prospective adopter and after several visits between the two, Colombe made his decision.

“He deserves a good home,” Colombe said.

Pelkey, with input from Lackland Air Force Base officials, also agreed Colombe was a suitable fit for Zoti.

The handover was a bittersweet moment for Staff Sgt. Amanda Payne, operations and plans NCO for 222nd MP Bde. Fighting back tears, Payne described Zoti as a “good dog.” Payne said she and the K-9 developed a close bond during the time she cared for him.

“The guys that know him, they were all here one day and Zoti didn’t move from his spot next to his crate until I walked in,” Payne said. “He followed me everywhere I went.”

Zoti received a Military Working Dog Certificate of Meritorious Service for his service and a one-way ride to “Fort Couch.”

“We’re happy to see him go but sad to see him go at the same time,” Pelkey said. “Knowing that he’s going to a good home really means a lot to us.”

Zoti now resides in Appling, Georgia, with Colombe, his husband, two dogs, and small livestock on a 24-acre farm. He is also a member of the United States War Dog Association, a nonprofit which provides MWDs with medications, prescription diet food, and surgeries as needed.

“He’s put in the time and deserves to be spoiled a little bit,” Colombe said. “I feel like we’re giving him the retirement he deserves.”

Return to top