An area K-9 was laid to rest Wednesday, after serving four tours of duty in the Middle East.
Freddie, a bomb-sniffing golden retriever from Galva, Illinois cleared the way for hundreds of soldiers in Afghanistan.
“He’d be the lead dog, he’d walk in front of me to make sure other soldiers were safe,” said Ryan Anderson of Galva, Freddie’s dog handler, hours before putting his best friend and comrade to sleep.
“It’s a day I’ve known that has always been coming for awhile. He’s been getting worse and worse. We went to the vet last week and I couldn’t do it. But I’m going back to the vet today. He’s in a lot of pain. I’m going to have him cremated, and get him a veteran’s urn,” Anderson said, holding back his tears.
Freddie was nearly 14 years old. A former show-dog in England, he served three tours of duty under the British Army, the fourth with the United States, when he teamed up with Anderson in 2009 for a deployment to Afghanistan.
“Many times in Afghanistan, it was just me and him, sleeping on a cot. Him keeping me warm. We slept in the same sleeping bag a lot of times. He’s always had my back, He’s my best friend, we toured together for 365 days,” said Anderson.
Freddie, at the time, was a bit old for the battlefield, at nine years old, but he didn’t show it.
“He had a drive that would surpass the four and five year old dogs. He wouldn’t quit,” Anderson said.
But arthritis took its toll, and when the canine retired, Anderson soon followed and adopted Freddie in 2010.
“I knew I was gonna take him home, no matter what I had to do,” he said.
His 8 and 11 year old daughters considered Freddie family and bravely said goodbye.
“He’s like a brother. And he served his country just like my dad,” said Tara Anderson. “He’s a soldier.”
There is no Veteran’s Assistance for dogs, adoptive families incur the costs of care and vet bills. Freddie, Anderson says, suffered from PTSD, he knows it.
“He had nightmares, like normal soldiers,” Anderson said.
Headed to the vets office late Wednesday afternoon, the human and the canine soldier had each others backs, until the end.
“Fellow soldier. Friend. Companion. He’ll never be replaced. I know that,” Anderson said. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s a vet. They’re all vets,” he said.