Veteran says goodbye to partner, hello to pet

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Greg Nash
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Amidst the silence emerged a distant sound of footsteps as Moody Airmen stood for the arrival of the official party, Oct. 28.

Alexander Nutting, former Military Working Dog handler assigned to the 23d Security Force Squadron, stood solemnly, anticipating the sight of the best friend he hadn’t seen in almost two years.

Presiding official, Maj. Charles Tenney, 23d SFS commander, gave remarks to begin Military Working Dog Dini’s retirement ceremony. Dini, a Vizsla bred dog who was born in 2004 and joined the Air Force as an explosive detector dog in 2009, stared at his former handler. Breaking his bearing with a smile, Nutting was happy that he made good on his promise to Dini.  

“I promised Dini that I would come back for him when I separated from the Air Force in May 2015,” said Nutting, who served in the Air Force for six years. “He was my best friend whom I trusted with my life and still do. I told everyone in the [23d Security Forces Squadron] that I wanted to adopt him. He earned the right to have a loving home and owner once he retired and I wanted to continue building our bond.”

The two met in March 2013 when Nutting was a new MWD handler. Excited, yet nervous to build rapport with his first and only MWD, he decided to play fetch with Dini. Unfortunately, they didn’t get off on the right foot.

“Dini and I were enjoying our first game of fetch to establish our relationship,” said Nutting. “Everything was going well until he took a bad dive on a catch attempt. He fell awkward and I immediately knew he was seriously hurt. It was a nerve-wracking experience because he was temporarily paralyzed. I feared the worst would happen, but regardless, I had to be there for him”

A determined Nutting used this challenge to gain his new pal’s trust.

“I decided to sleep on an air mattress in his kennel for a week to attempt to gain that trust again,” Nutting added. “It’s then that we really strengthened our friendship because he could rely on me and I was with him 24/7. I’m just fortunate he recovered well and that I was paired with him. He’s amazing. Every day, he earned the respect of other handlers as one of the best detector dogs because he always did an incredible job.”

Racking up accomplishments throughout his honorable service while searching for possible explosives to ensure the safety of his handlers, military personnel, and civilians, Dini has responded to eight bomb threats in Lowndes county and surrounding areas.  He also supported 11 United States Secret Service missions, providing explosives detection and security for the President and Vice President.

According to Nutting, his fondest moment of Dini’s career was seeing him in action while deployed together in 2014 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“My best moments with Dini were during our deployment tour,” said Nutting. “When you’re deployed, you see a lot and you miss home. But being alongside Dini relaxed me. He was my peace of mind and reminder of home. Our bond after the tour was unbreakable. I knew then that I had to adopt him or else I was going to lose him.”

Nutting came to this realization once he made the decision to separate in May 2015. On his last encounter with Dini, he promised him they would reunite, even with the challenges and unlikelihood of fulfilling the promise.

“I knew for a while that I wanted to be his owner, but the process wasn’t easy,” said Nutting. “I had to worry about if he’d even be medically cleared to be adopted or if he’d get adopted by someone else. It was the hardest thing I had to deal with. Luckily, I was able to keep my word and got approved to get my best friend back.”

Relieved of all his worries, Nutting kept his word as he took the leash and said hello to his new pet.

“I’m so glad to give Dini this opportunity,” said Nutting. “It’s been a long time coming but I finally have him. I can’t wait to travel together and play fetch, enjoy a swim in the ocean and just enjoy a happy home and environment. It feels good being together again.”

Reminiscing from the same experience, fellow handler Staff Sergeant Anthony Cruz, 23d SFS MWD handler, shared what it’s like to transition from handling a MWD into making them a part of your family as a pet.

“It’s an honor to be able to adopt a MWD, especially one you’ve handled,” said Cruz, who adopted retired MWD Liza from the 23d SFS in 2015. “It’s an easy transition, but it’s a different environment for the dog. They’re used to being in a cage all day but then they have the chance to be a pet and enjoy being a normal dog. It’s good to see another handler enjoy the adoption process. I’m happy for Nutting. We thank Dini for his greatness and dedication to the job and he’ll surely be missed.”